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Jacques Derrida - Hostipitality

Jacques Derrida - Hostipitality



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Published by: Ivan on Jun 14, 2010
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efore even beginning, I will read, I willreread with you by way of an epigraph, along and celebrated passage from Kant.To begin with, I will read it almost withoutcommentary. But in each of its words, it willpreside over the whole of this lecture and allquestions of hospitality, the historical questions –those questions at once timeless, archaic,modern, current, and future [
à venir
] that thesingle word “hospitality” magnetizes – the histor-ical, ethical, juridical, political, and economicquestions of hospitality.As you have no doubt already guessed, itis a question in
 Perpetual Peace
of thefamous “Third Definitive Article of a PerpetualPeace [
 Dritter Definitivartikel zum ewigen Frieden
the title of which is: “
 DasWeltbürgerrechtsoll auf Bedingungen derallgemeinen Hospitalitäteingeschränkt sein
”:“Cosmopolitan Rightshall be limited toConditions of Universal Hospitality.” <Alreadythe question of conditionality, of conditional orunconditional hospitality, presents itself.>
Two words are underlined by Kant in thistitle: “cosmopolitan right” [
:the right of world citizens] – we are thus in thespace of right, not of morality and politics oranything else but of a right determined in its rela-tion to citizenship, the state, the subject of thestate, even if it is a world state – it is a questiontherefore of an international right; the otherunderlined word is “hospitality” [
der allge-meinen Hospitalität
, universal hospitality]. It isa question therefore of defining the conditions of a cosmopolitan right, of a right the terms of which would be established by a treaty betweenstates, by a kind of UN charter before the fact,and one of these conditions would be what Kantcalls universal hospitality,
die allgemeine Hospitalität
.I quote this title in German to indicate thatthe word for “hospitality” is a Latin word(
, a word of Latin origin, of a trou-bled and troubling origin, a word which carriesits own contradiction incorporated into it, a Latinword which allows itself to be parasitized by itsopposite, “hostility,” the undesirable guest[
which it harbors as the self-contradictionin its own body, and which we will speak of againlater).Kant will find a German equivalent,
(which he will put in parentheses asthe equivalent of 
), for this Latinword,
, from the first sentence whichI am now going to read.The equivalent Kant recalls is
.Kant writes: “As in the foregoing articles, we areconcerned here not with philanthropy, but withright [
 Es ist hier … nicht von Philanthropie,sondern vom Recht die Rede
]” (in specifying thatit is a question here of right and not philan-thropy, Kant, of course, does not want to show
 jacques derrida
translated by barry stocker with forbes morlock
 journal of the theoretical humanitiesvolume5 number 3 december 2000
ISSN 0969-725X print/ISSN 1469-2899 online/00/030003-16 © 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd and the Editors of 
DOI: 10.1080/09697250020034706
that this right must be misanthropic, or even an-anthropic; it is a human right, this right to hospi-tality – and for us it already broaches animportant question, that of the anthropologicaldimension of hospitality or the right to hospital-ity: what can be said of, indeed can one speak of,hospitality toward the non-human, the divine, forexample, or the animal or vegetable; does oneowe hospitality, and is that the right word whenit is a question of welcoming – or being madewelcome by – the other or the stranger[
] as god, animal or plant, to use thoseconventional categories?). In underlining that itis a question here of right and not philanthropy,Kant does not mean that the right of hospitalityis a-human or inhuman, but rather that, as aright, it does not arise [
] from “the love of man as a sentimental motive.” Universal hospi-tality arises [
] from an obligation, a right,and a duty all regulated by law; elsewhere, in the“Elements of Ethics” which concludes his“Doctrine of Virtue”,
Kant distinguishes thephilanthropist from what he calls “the friendof man” (allow me to refer those whom thisdistinction may interest to what I say in
The Politics of Friendship
in the passage devoted tothe “black swan”
). I return, then, to this firstsentence and to the German word which accom-panies
in parentheses: “As in theforegoing articles, we are here concerned not withphilanthropy, but with right. In this contexthospitality [
)] meansthe right of a stranger [
bedeutet das Recht eines Fremdlings
] not to be treated with hostility[
en ennemi
] when he arrives on someone else’sterritory [
seiner Ankunft auf der Boden einesandern wegen von diesem nicht feindseligbehandelt zu werden
].”Already hospitality is opposed to what is noth-ing other than opposition itself, namely, hostility[
]. The welcomed guest [
] is astranger treated as a friend or ally, as opposed tothe stranger treated as an enemy (friend/enemy,hospitality/hostility). The pair we will continue tospeak of, hospitality/hostility, is in place. Beforepursuing my simple reading or quotation, Iwould like to underline the German word
which Kant adds in parentheses, asthe equivalent of the Latin
in the feminine) is at the same time the
and the host [
], the host*
whoreceives the
, the
, the
of ahotel or restaurant.
, like
,means “hospitable,” “welcoming.”
isthe café, the cabaret, the inn, the place thataccommodates. And
governs the whole lexi-con of 
, which is to say, economy and,thus,
, law of the household <where itis precisely the
of the house – he whoreceives, who is master in his house, in his house-hold, in his state, in his nation, in his city, in histown, who remains master in his house – whodefines the conditions of hospitality or welcome;where consequently there can be no uncondi-tional welcome, no unconditional passagethrough the door>. Here the
, the
, is just as much the one who as host [
] (as host*and not as guest*) receives, welcomes, offershospitality in his house or
, as he is, in thefirst instance and with reason, the master of thehousehold, the
, the master
in his ownhome
. At bottom, before even beginning, wecould end our reflections here in the formaliza-tion of a law of hospitality which violentlyimposes a contradiction on the very concept of hospitality in fixing a limit to it, in de-terminingit: hospitality is certainly, necessarily, a right, aduty, an obligation, the
of the foreignother [
l’autre étranger
] as a friend but on thecondition that the host*, the
, the one whoreceives, lodges or
 gives asylum
remains the
, the master of the household, on thecondition that he maintains his own authority
inhis own home
, that he looks after himself andsees to and considers all that concerns him [
qu’il se garde et garde et regarde ce qui le regarde
]and thereby affirms the law of hospitality as thelaw of the household,
, the law of hishousehold, the law of a place (house, hotel, hospi-tal, hospice, family, city, nation, language, etc.),the law of identity which de-limits the
placeof proffered hospitality and maintains authorityover it, maintains the truth of authority, remainsthe place of this maintaining, which is to say, of truth, thus limiting the gift proffered and makingof this limitation, namely, the
being-oneself inone’s own home
, the condition of the gift and of hospitality. This is the principle, <one could say,
the aporia,> of both the constitution and theimplosion of the concept of hospitality, theeffects of which – it is my hypothesis – we willonly continue to confirm. This implosion or, if you prefer, this self-deconstruction havingalready taken place, we could, I was saying, endhere <the reflection on this aporia>. Hospitalityis a self-contradictory concept and experiencewhich can only self-destruct <put otherwise,produce itself as impossible, only be possible onthe condition of its impossibility> or protectitself from itself, auto-immunize itself in someway, which is to say, deconstruct itself – precisely– in being put into practice.But in order not to stop here before evenhaving started, I will go on as if we had not yetsaid anything and we will continue for a littlelonger.Still by way of an epigraph, I will continuereading Kant’s text to the end, this time withoutstopping. It would be possible to come to a stopbefore each word, but as it is an epigraph, I won’tdo that, I will press on. We will have plenty of opportunities to come back to it later.
As in the foregoing articles, we are concernedhere not with philanthropy, but with
. Inthis context,
[l’hospitalité (hospi-talitas)] means the right of a stranger not to betreated with hostility when he arrives on some-one else’s territory. He can indeed be turnedaway, if this is done without causing hisdeath,
but he must not be treated with hostil-ity so long as he behaves in a peaceable mannerin the place he happens to be. The strangercannot claim the
right of a guest
to be enter-tained [
droit de résidence], for this wouldrequire a special friendly agreement wherebyhe might become a member of the nativehousehold for a certain time. He may onlyclaim a
right of resort
droit de visite],
forall men are entitled to present themselves inthe society of others by virtue of their right tocommunal possession of the earth’s surface.Since the earth is a globe, they cannot disperseover an infinite area, but must tolerate oneanother’s company. And no one originally hasany greater right than anyone else to occupyany particular portion of the earth.
Thecommunity of man is divided by uninhabitableparts of the earth’s surface such as oceans anddeserts, but even then the
or the
(the ship of the desert) makes it possible forthem to approach their fellows over theseownerless tracts, and to utilize as a means of social intercourse that
right to the earth’ssurface
which the human race shares incommon. The inhospitable behavior of coastaldwellers (as on the Barbary coast) in plunder-ing ships on the adjoining seas or enslavingstranded seafarers, or that of inhabitants of thedesert (as with the Arab Bedouins), who regardtheir proximity to nomadic tribes as a justifi-cation for plundering them, is contrary tonatural right.
But this natural right of hospi-tality, i.e. the right of strangers, does notextend beyond those conditions which make itpossible for them to
to enter into rela-tions with the native inhabitants. In this way,continents distant from each other can enterinto peaceful mutual relations which may even-tually be regulated by public laws, thus bring-ing the human race nearer and nearer to acosmopolitan constitution.If we compare with this ultimate end the
conduct of the civilized states of our continent, especially the commercialstates, the injustice which they display in
foreign countries and peoples (which intheir case is the same as
them)seems appallingly great. America, the negrocountries, the Spice Islands, the Cape, etc.were looked upon at the time of their discov-ery as ownerless territories; for the nativeinhabitants were counted as nothing. In EastIndia (Hindustan), foreign troops werebrought in under the pretext of merely settingup trading posts. This led to the oppression of the natives, incitement of the various Indianstates to widespread wars, famine, insurrec-tion, treachery and the whole litany of evilswhich afflict the human race.… The peoples of the earth have thusentered in varying degrees into a universalcommunity, and it has developed to the pointwhere a violation of rights in
part of theworld is felt
. The idea of acosmopolitan right is therefore not fantasticand overstrained; it is a necessary complementto the unwritten code of political and interna-tional right, transforming it into a universalright of humanity. Only under this conditioncan we flatter ourselves that we are continuallyadvancing towards a perpetual peace. (105–08)

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