Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Epistemic Encounters: Indigenous Cosmopolitan Hospitality, Marxist Anthropology, Deconstruction, and Doris Pilkington's Rabbit-Proof Fence

Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Epistemic Encounters: Indigenous Cosmopolitan Hospitality, Marxist Anthropology, Deconstruction, and Doris Pilkington's Rabbit-Proof Fence

Article excerpt

Jean de Levy's History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Otherwise Called America

IN HIS 1997 SESSIONS ON HOSPITALITY, Jacques Derrida cites de Lery's description, above, of the Tupinamba welcoming ceremony as an example of "radical hospitality," which he characterizes by the reception of the uninvited guest, the stranger, into one's home. In the context of European statecraft, such hospitality is radical because it exceeds the normative restrictions and regulations that circumscribe the movement of so-called foreign bodies across national lines. Derrida's notion of a radical hospitality lies at the heart of a welcoming cosmopolitanism and the fulfilment of the desire for an unfettered movement of bodies across European national boundaries. Tat Derrida would radicalize hospitality by way of referencing a Tupinamba welcoming ceremony points to the many ways aboriginality constitutes an origin story in the European text of civility and civilization. While the Tupinamba laws of hospitality lie at the root of Derrida's conception of a radicalized European hospitality, for indigenous peoples in North and South America the colonizing effects of European imperialism in the postcolonial nation have hardly been reconciled, let alone acknowledged. Thus, the question emerges: How to decolonize this European notion of cosmopolitan hospitality? On the one hand, it would seem necessary to open the text of a European critical account of cosmopolitan hospitality to its own imperial history and the consequences of that history for the contemporary global tensions being fought across, within, and beyond its state lines that impact on any given nation's laws of hospitality.

While this question places the emphasis on the problem of the economic and political conditions that determine the global system in which the postcolonial nation is required to operate or survive, such an approach, while recognizably critical and committed to the political ideals of transnational social justice, nevertheless can only register the resistant pressures and agency of the postcolonial world within such conditions. However, a more radical position exists, I would argue, in re-positioning the epistemological conditions of postcoloniality by talking into account indigenous epistemologies rather than focusing only on the exploitative and appropriative conditions and disavowals that attempted to marginalize and silence such epistemologies over a large period of time, no less than in the twentieth century where in Canada, for instance, the federal government legislated policies to assimilate indigenous peoples, notably the Indian residential school system, which was targeted toward the destruction of indigenous cultural and pedagogical practices. In an effort to construct a genealogical assemblage (1) of texts from the multi-faceted postcolonial archive, this paper articulates, as in hinges together, a set of materials which include Derrida on hospitality as deconstruction, Marx and Engels on communism, Henry Lewis Morgan on the Iroquois laws of hospitality, and Doris Pilkington's memoir, Rabbit-Proof Fence. The following section explicates the problem of origin stories in the figure of aboriginality. Te subsequent section draws out the linkages between Derrida's notion of cosmopolitanism and Marx and Engels's use of Morgan's study of the Iroquoian laws of hospitality in their formation of communism. The final section focuses on the significance of Pilkington's text to an indigenous ethics of hospitality, homelessness, and homecoming.

Origin Stories and Other (in)Hospitable Acts of Writings

There is nothing new in the use of aboriginality (ab-origine) to signify the so-called primitive or savage stage of human development from which European civilization apparently emerged and upon which it improved. In Rousseau's enlightened Discourse on the Inequality Among Men, for example, Primitive Man figured positively as a model of simplicity and manly strength in opposition to the material and effeminate commodity excesses of the aristocracy, what he derisively challenged as their unmanly love of fashion (Emberley, "Economies of Dissimulation" 2005). …

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