Phenomenologies of the Stranger: Between Hostility and Hospitality

Phenomenologies of the Stranger: Between Hostility and Hospitality

John D. Caputo series editor
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    Phenomenologies of the Stranger: Between Hostility and Hospitality
    Book Description:

    What is strange? Or better, who is strange? When do we encounter the strange? We encounter strangers when we are not at home: when we are in a foreign land or a foreign part of our own land. From Freud to Lacan to Kristeva to Heidegger, the feeling of strangeness-das Unheimlichkeit-has marked our encounter with the other, even the other within our self. Most philosophical attempts to understand the role of the Stranger, human or transcendent, have been limited to standard epistemological problems of other minds, metaphysical substances, body/soul dualism and related issues of consciousness and cognition. This volume endeavors to take the question of hosting the stranger to the deeper level of embodied imagination and the senses (in the Greek sense of aisthesis). This volume plays host to a number of encounters with the strange. It asks such questions as: How does the embodied imagination relate to the Stranger in terms of hospitality or hostility (given the common root of hostis as both host and enemy)? How do we distinguish between projections of fear or fascination, leading to either violence or welcome? How do humans sensethe dimension of the strange and alien in different religions, arts, and cultures? How do the five physical senses relate to the spiritual senses, especially the famous sixthsense, as portals to an encounter with the Other? Is there a carnal perception of alterity, which would operate at an affective, prereflective, preconscious level? What exactly do embodied imaginariesof hospitality and hostility entail, and how do they operate in language, psychology, and social interrelations (including racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating)? And what, finally, are the topical implications of these questions for an ethics and practice of tolerance and peace?

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4922-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prelude

    • At the Threshold: Foreigners, Strangers, Others
      (pp. 3-29)

      This volume plays host to a number of texts that serve as “phenomenologies of the stranger.” Who is the stranger? When and how does the stranger appear? And why does the question of the stranger matter so much, to philosophers and non-philosophers alike?

      From the perspective of these authors situated in North America and Europe, responding to strangers matters a great deal. We belong to nations and cultures embroiled in debates about borders, immigration, and cultural assimilation. Our world calls on us to improve our capacity to respond responsibly: to learn to offer hospitality or to assess hostility.

      So what...

    • Presentation of Texts
      (pp. 30-36)

      The texts in this volume play host to a number of encounters with the strange. They ask such questions as: How does the embodied imagination relate to the Stranger in terms of hospitality or hostility (given the common root ofhostisas both host and enemy)? How do we discern between projections of fear or fascination, leading to either violence or welcome? How do humans “sense” the dimension of the strange in each other, in nature, religion and poetry or in the fundamental experience of not being at home in the world—the uncanniness of being or the unconscious? Is...

  5. Part I: At the Edge of the World

    • 1 Strangers at the Edge of Hospitality
      (pp. 39-48)

      Strangers at the edge? Where else would they be? The edge is their place—or equally their non-place, since the edge is no place to be: no place to be comfortable, to be identified, to have the status of a citizen or homeowner. Yet, paradoxically, the edge is also where strangers are received: it is where hospitality happens. It is the non-place where the opening of hospitable place (a place called home, country, people) emerges and where, deepened and prolonged, such place comes to stay: to last as the reliable scene and setting of hospitality. There is no hospitality in...

    • 2 Putting Hospitality in Its Place
      (pp. 49-66)

      For the past several decades, continental philosophy has exhibited an ongoing concern with what we might call liminal phenomena, among them friendship, the gift, mourning, responsibility, forgiveness, and hospitality. Of course, to call these “phenomena” already begs the question, or at least a question, the question of whether and to what extent these events actually take place. Thinking in the wake of Jacques Derrida it is impossible to ignore, for example, the excess of the call to forgiveness over the sort of forgiveness that actually takes place in concrete situations. In the case of hospitality, this excess is apparent in...

    • 3 Things at the Edge of the World
      (pp. 67-80)

      Confronted by the snake, an emissary of the strange, D. H. Lawrence is conflicted from the beginning, switching in a trice from fear and hostility to wonder and hospitality. Eventually, he throws a log at the snake, declaring, “And immediately I regretted it. I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act! I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.”

      This structure of switching or reversal appears in many places. It is found in Levinas’s account of coming up against the limits of my own intentional orientation, its interruption by the face (or appeal, or call)...

  6. Part II: Sacred Strangeness

    • 4 Hospitality and the Trouble with God
      (pp. 83-97)

      God is trouble.

      The name of God is the name of trouble, the name of a disturbance. It solicits us and visits itself upon us, like an uninvited stranger knocking on our door. It is a provocation and an interruption, venerable but dangerous, healing but quite poisonous, grounding but no less destabilizing, an ancientarchebut very anarchical. From of old, it has perplexed us and driven us quite mad—with love and justice, with passion and rage, with madness of almost every kind. It gives the urge to kill or to risk being killed a perfect alibi. The ambiguity...

    • 5 The Hospitality of Listening: A Note on Sacramental Strangeness
      (pp. 98-108)

      Among the most promising-seeming possibilities for an ethics linked to theology—always a risky proposition—is that of regarding the world as sacramental. A sacramental sensibility seems, potentially at least, a way to a valuing of some aspects of the world, but not a way particularly welcoming of the strange or the stranger. But fundamental to such a sensibility, I want to argue here, is a discipline of attention, of a carefully open listening, and such an attentiveness in fact requires that we listen to what we do not already understand, what sounds in our ears and appears to our...

    • 6 Incarnate Experience
      (pp. 109-125)

      This essay concerns different kinds of experiences that pertain to corporeality. In particular, I appeal to descriptions that suggest and illuminate a unique mode of corporeal experience that is distinct from what we usually understand as embodiment. This distinction is governed phenomenologically, and not asserted speculatively or on the basis of traditionally held belief systems. It is discerned by being attentive to different ways in which corporeal experience isgiven. Thus, what guide this investigation are modes of givenness.

      In speaking of corporeality, I suggest an operative distinction between “embodied” experience, where we are concerned with perceptual and epistemic bodily...

    • 7 The Time of Hospitality—Again
      (pp. 126-142)

      How does someone dreaming, wondering about half-forgotten stories in dead languages, (something about a boy who seeks hospitality from Death only to find that Death is not at home and awaits him…) find a door, at least a narrow passage to slip into the discursive space of the modern university where the thought of hospitality and the stranger is carried on in the language of expertise? After several tries, she might boldly settle for an interruption, a sheaf of observations: It appears that any attempt to think hospitality in relation to the stranger, is inescapably to situate it at...

  7. Part III: The Uncanny Revisited

    • 8 The Null Basis-Being of a Nullity, Or Between Two Nothings: Heidegger’s Uncanniness
      (pp. 145-154)

      At times, reading a classical philosophical text is like watching an ice floe break up during global warming. The compacted cold assurance of a coherent system begins to become liquid and great conceptual pieces break off before your eyes and begin to float free on the sea. To be a reader is to try and either keep one’s footing as the ice breaks up, or to fall in the icy water and drown.

      This is true of every page of Heidegger’sBeing and Time.¹ But it is nowhere truer than in the discussion of conscience in Division 2, which, to...

    • 9 Heidegger and the Strangeness of Being
      (pp. 155-167)

      It was sheer serendipity that brought us together, but there we were. The original question was innocent enough: “How are we to understand hospitality?” Even when sharpened into “What can phenomenology tell us about welcoming the stranger?” it still seems to intend no harm. But when the “stranger” in question morphs into the “uncanny,” it takes on a weirdness that the uncanny itself suggests. For the layman, the word suggests a feeling of dread or inexplicable strangeness, seeming to have a preternatural cause, as if locked into the present by some ominous and long forgotten past. The formal nature of...

    • 10 Progress in Spirit: Freud and Kristeva on the Uncanny
      (pp. 168-195)

      In the penultimate chapter ofStrangers to Ourselves(1989), Julia Kristeva distills the “political and ethical impact of the Freudian breakthrough.”¹ Surfacing at the close of an invigorating cultural (and classically Kristevan) romp through political, literary, and philosophical history, carrying us from dawning awareness of sexual difference (“the first foreigners: women”) to Jewish, Greek, and Roman representations of autochthony and otherness, and finally to Enlightenment thinking on universalism, her remarks on the uncanny in Freud signal our entry into a domain decisively shaped by Kristeva herself: that of politics and psychoanalysis. “The ethics of psychoanalysis implies a cosmopolitanism … of...

    • 11 The Uncanny Strangeness of Maternal Election: Levinas and Kristeva on Parental Passion
      (pp. 196-212)

      In his essay “The Uncanny,” Sigmund Freud describes the uncanny as what is concealed and frightening in the familiar and agreeable or vice versa.¹ He moves from discussing animated dolls, the Sandman’s fear of losing his eyes as castration anxiety, doubles and mirrors, fear of death, dear of the dark, to the mother’s body. In general, he attributes uncanny sensations to castration anxiety (whether from seeing the mother’s “castrated sex” or as symbolically represented by pecked out eyes) and the return, or repetition, of repressed childhood fears or desires.² Specifically, he links the uncanny to the reanimation of that which...

  8. Part IV: Hosts and Guests

    • 12 Being, the Other, the Stranger
      (pp. 215-231)

      If philosophizing is not merely a matter of attending to everything, including things that are of no vital concern to us, but rather requires that one become conscious of what one is doing when one engages with questions, then we must start by recognizing in what way and under what conditions the question of the stranger can become a properly philosophical one. How does the stranger enter into philosophy?

      Let me voice a preliminary scruple: What permits us in the first place to affirm that the philosopher necessarily encounters the question of the stranger?

      Consider Wittgenstein’sTractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Should we...

    • 13 Words of Welcome: Hospitality in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas
      (pp. 232-241)

      Emmanuel Levinas signals the importance of hospitality for his approach to ethics and religion about two-thirds of the way through his first major work,Totality and Infinity:

      No human or interhuman relationship can be enacted outside of economy; no face can be approached with empty hands and closed home. Recollection in a home open to the Other—hospitality—is the concrete and initial fact of human recollection and separation; it coincides with the Desire for the Other absolutely transcendent.¹

      The French text calls for a pair of significant nuances not easily discernible in English translation. To begin with, where the...

    • 14 Neither Close nor Strange: Levinas, Hospitality, and Genocide
      (pp. 242-257)

      At the outset ofTotality and Infinity, Emmanuel Levinas defines the Other (l’Autrui)—the overarching theme of all his work—in terms of the stranger. He writes:

      The absolutely other is the Other. He and I do not form a number. The collectivity in which I say “you” or “we” is not a plural of the “I.” I, you—these are not individuals of a common concept. Neither possession nor the unity of number nor the unity of concepts link me to the Stranger, the Stranger who disturbs the being at home with oneself. But Stranger also means the free...

    • 15 Between Mourning and Magnetism: Derrida and Waldenfels on the Art of Hospitality
      (pp. 258-273)

      Plutarch recounts a scene in the life of the Athenian lawmaker Solon (sixth century BC), when another Greek sage, Anacharsis, has come to visit: “Anacharsis, coming to Athens, knocked at Solon’s door, and told him, that he, being a stranger, was come to be his guest, and contract a friendship with him; and Solon replying, ‘It is better to make friends at home,’ Anacharsis replied, ‘Then you that are at home make friendship with me.’”¹ In hisLes Misérables(1862), Victor Hugo describes the moment in which Jean Valjean, a convict, arrives unexpectedly at the home of Monseigneur Bienvenu, the...

    • 16 The Stranger in the Polis: Hospitality in Greek Myth
      (pp. 274-284)

      By the gates of Thebes the stranger has no name. For to be given a name, or to give oneself a name, is to identify oneself as someone, and therefore as not a stranger anymore. Naming the stranger amounts to depriving him of his strangeness and appropriating him to the familiar, to ourselves. A stranger who can be named by this or that name is no longer strange. He is already within. Even before he enters my city or my home, he has entered my language: as Levinas says, “languageishospitality.”¹

      By the gates of Thebes, the stranger without...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 285-332)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 333-336)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 337-340)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 341-344)