‘Tribalization of human beings’: Mohsin Hamid explores race, fractured societies at KLF


British-Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid was in attendance at the 15th KLF to speak about his fifth book, the oddly prescient ‘The Last White Man’, exploring themes of race, belonging and otherness, on Saturday.

Speaking with author and lecturer Claire Chambers about the increasing polarization in society, Hamid said he wanted to write a book challenging the notion of otherness. Notably, the book was published in 2022 and discussed at the festival within the framework of current conflicts and concerns globally.

“I thought I would like to put on the skin of a character, who feels that their whiteness is being lost, whose position in society has changed,” explained Hamid.

The premise of the book tells the story of the protagonist, Anders, who wakes up to discover that he has changed race, who then has to grapple with not being white anymore.

Hamid stated how historical and recent political and economic movements have been driven by the underlying notion of a superior or dominant group of people threatened or being diluted by another.

He cited former US president Donald Trump’s promise to ‘Make American Great Again’, Brexit’s anti-diversity premise of driving out Pakistanis and Nigerians among others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalism and the current horrors being inflicted in Gaza by Israel as further reasons to explore the idea of otherness.

He also put forth the notion that the digital age has exacerbated the notion of “otherness” through “sorting”.

“The machine world by its very nature is very polarizing – you’re either black or white, Muslim or another,” stated Hamid.

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