Unconditional Hospitality – When the Other is not Welcome
Keywords:the unconditional, hospitality, event, deconstruction, democracy, Jacques Derrida
Derrida’s notion of unconditional hospitality appears to be an invitation to disaster. He seems to say that we should always and everywhere welcome the other into our own, into our home or our land, “without condition,” no questions asked, even if they mean to do us harm. But surely we have the right to insist that the other is welcome only under the condition of having no ill intentions. So it seems, contra Derrida, that hospitality only makes sense if it is conditional while unconditional hospitality is inviting trouble. So the question for us today is this, How can the notion of unconditional hospitality – or forgiveness – be maintained in the face of such perfectly obviously objections? A cautionary note: Derrida takes up the question of hospitality from the point of view of the refugee, the displaced, the exile, the immigrant, in short, of those who are in need of our hospitality. He was not discussing the right to self-defense when we come under attack by the other, when the other poses a clear and present threat. So we are raising this question in a different context and we will need to draw out the implications of what he is saying for our own purposes today.
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