Academic journal article Theory in Action

Practices of Hospitality in a Sovereign World

Academic journal article Theory in Action

Practices of Hospitality in a Sovereign World

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Due in large part to provocations from Jacque Derrida's writings on the topic, the concept of hospitality has taken a prominent place in discussions on ethics, human rights and social justice. This is especially the case with issues that pertain to an increasingly globalized and interconnected world but one which is still characterized by strictly enforced territorial borders. Questions have been raised as to whether there exists a right to hospitality, what tins might look like and what limitations exist when we think of hospitality in certain ways that are connected to the sovereign, territorial nation-state. This article examines the concept of hospitality and suggests that the idea of unconditional hospitality is particularly appropriate for the consideration of ethical dimensions in responses to undocumented migration. Unconditional hospitality is a borderless hospitality that calls for the absolute, unqualified welcoming of "the other" who is neither formally/officially invited or expected. Claviez asks "Can a place possibly be imagined where unconditionality, which both Levinas and Derrida helped to us think, can play a role-let alone be exercised-or does such an idea of hospitality represent a genuine utopia: a u-topos, a nonplace, in which by definition, nothing, can 'take place'?" This article suggests that we can imagine places of unconditionality and that we can point to concrete practices of hospitality without conditions. While Derrida refers to unconditional hospitality as an impossibility, a promise, a "to come," he also speaks of the possibility of the impossible. This phrase is only contradictory if we restrict our thinking and our imaginations regarding possibilities and impossibilities and close our minds to what Derrida is attempting to get at. Unconditional hospitality is in fact impossible if we look for it in the realms of policy, law, and sovereign state edicts. However, if we refuse to limit our scope to official governmental realms and the codifications of accepted courses of action created therein, we can locate practices that approach Derrida's possibility of the impossible, the impossible that just might happen, the impossible that may alter our thinking as to what is possible. I show this by examining instances of pro-immigrant activism in the United States on the part of those who cannot and do not wait for policy changes and who engage in practices which I argue approach a kind of hospitality without conditions.

NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY AND THE RIGHT TO MOBILITY

Hospitality is intricately connected to human rights and especially pertinent to the right to mobility, a right that is readily accorded to some but denied to many.3 This right is enshrined (in part) in Article 13-2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." This right to emigration, i.e. to leave, is recognized as a fundamental human right. However, without the corresponding right to immigrate, i.e. to enter another country, the right to leave becomes extremely problematic, potentially meaningless, and exposes the contradiction between regarding the right to leave a country as a basic universal human right issue and the right to immigrate to another country as a matter of national sovereignty.

The human rights aspect of mobility becomes especially significant when we consider the reasons individuals leave their countries of origin, including war and violence, persecution, gross economic inequality and inequality of opportunity amongst the countries of the world. Movement in general is an intricate part of globalization, which continues apace and has given rise on the part of much of the world's political and corporate leaders to support the free circulation of goods, services, and capital throughout the world, but the near complete lack of support for the free movement of human beings. The European Union is the only region in the world where trade and other economic agreements have been accompanied by a degree of free movement for people. …

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