What does it mean to be a nation?

In Exit West Mohsin Hamid explores what it means to be a nation. The traditional way of defining a nation is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. In Exit West, nations seemingly disappear as migration to other parts of the world becomes unstoppable. Landmasses that used to have national identity see that identity rapidly disappear. “Their grandparents had been born on the strip of land that stretched from the mid-northern-Pacific to the mid-northern-atlantic.” Instead of saying America, or the United States, people describe the region in terms of its general geographical location, implying that the United States no longer exists in the form the Nation used to have. Its history, ideas, and culture evaporated as people from the entire world came to occupy the area. Though the existence of personal national identity still exists, as evidenced by Saeed’s longing to join the community in London that comes from his home country, nations within land masses no longer exist.

3 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a nation?

  1. Alex G.

    I agree, and it also should be noted that the “native” people of these countries are extremely upset about this mass influx of migrants, so upset that they often resort to straight violence. I think Hamid is alluding to the idea of “otherness” here.


  2. JOHN V

    I found it very interesting that the idea of nations does not really seem to exist in the book. I know the country Saeed and Nadia are from did not have a name but I did not realize that the idea of countries and nations seemed to fall apart during the novel. That seemed like a very hard detail to catch on to. Good job.


  3. ELIAS N.

    At least in terms of Native Americans, I know that cultural groups are often described as “nations.” For example, “The Seneca Nation” is almost synonymous with “The Seneca People”. I think that you are right in the sense that nation has a much more abstract definition in its relation to identity rather than actually defining an area. What intrigues me most about what you wrote is if this separation of land and identity will ever occur on Earth, and if so, when? Are we moving closer or farther from it?


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