UNCONDITIONAL HOSPITALITY: HIV, ETHICS AND THE REFUGEE ‘PROBLEM’
Refugees, as forced migrants, have suffered displacement under conditions not of their own choosing. In 2000 there were thought to be 22 million refugees of whom 6 million were HIV positive. While the New Zealand government has accepted a number of HIV positive refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, this hospitality is under threat due to negative public and political opinion. Epidemic conditions raise the social stakes attached to sexual exchanges, contagion becomes a major figure in social relationships and social production, and the fears of the contagious nature of those ‘just off the plane’ connect refugees to an equally deep-seated fear of racial miscegenation.
Jacques Derrida’s notion of unconditional hospitality is a dream of a democracy which would have a cosmopolitan form. This means that one cannot decide in advance which refugees one might choose to resettle. This paper will use Derrida’s notion of unconditional hospitality to emphasise the fragility of HIV positive refugees’ position, caught between becoming newly made New Zealand subjects while at the same time having that subjecthood threatened. For Derrida, both ethics and politics demand both an action and a need for a thoughtful response (a questioning without limit).