Exit west, by Moshin Hamid, is a book that depicts the world turning almost upside down, with national borders almost dissolving. Another thing that exit west turns upside down is the subconscious colonial assumptions that we have. One of the ways that Hamid subverts the colonial system is by referring to the white people of England as the “natives”. This simple word choice almost messes with one’s head as we are so accustomed to hearing about natives in reference to the less developed continents that European empires exploited. For white people it is almost a new experience to consider the ‘natives’ as being white. Hamid comments upon this: “And yet it was not quite true to say that there were almost no natives, nativeness being a relative matter” (197). Hamid then goes on to argue that the paler skinned Americans owe their nativeness to their several generations of living in “a thin strip of land between the pacific ocean and the Atlantic ocean” (198).
Yet realistically that makes them far less native than the ones who were there before European contact, but even among those peoples there are groups that arrived long before others.
Is anyone truly native?
Throughout chapters seven through nine Hamid depicts the tensions between the migrants and the natives of London. The natives of London today would be characterized by Norse and Norman genetics, Normans being Norse people who mixed with French. However these groups also displaced the Anglo-Saxons that were there before them. But these Anglo-Saxons arrived from Denmark and Germany to displace Roman groups which in turn supplanted Celtic and Pict societies. Even that natives aren’t native.
Does native as a term even mean anything? Humans are always on the move and always have been. If you look farther than all humans are “natives” to Africa or the Middle East, but we rarely think of things that way. The distinctions that humans create serve to organize their own interests. People could be natives when they want to protect their land yet toss aside the term when they want to take others’.
What do you consider yourself a native to, and why?