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Migration and the duty of hospitality: A genealogical sketch

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Hospitality is usually defined as a benevolent act towards strangers. The concept has seen a revival during the ‘European migrant crisis’, as a humanitarian duty inspired by ancient traditions and natural empathy. This narrative is unsatisfying because it depoliticizes hospitality, homogenizes its historical meanings and neglects to take seriously the features of hospitality that are incompatible with modern politics. In order to redefine the concept of hospitality for contemporary issues, it is necessary to understand precisely what hospitality has meant throughout its different historical and philosophical instantiations and what kind of political problems it was supposed to address. This article offers a genealogy of the various political features of hospitality and distinguishes four sources of it: the ancient relation of dependence, the politics of ritualized hospitality, the medieval and Christian roots of hospitality as charity and its emergence as a natural right. Then, I argue for a reconstruction of the political meaning of hospitality for contemporary migration issues, based on practical mobilizations of the concept. I define modern hospitality as the collective obligation to relieve distress caused by crossing borders.

Keywords: cosmopolitanism; genealogy; hospitality; migrant crisis; natural law; refugees

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000404915494Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Publication date: October 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Transient migration due to the global movements of people for work, study and lifestyle is part of everyday life. This journal thus aims to provide a platform that explores and investigates the complexities of transient migration and to map the experiences of the growing number of transient migrants as they engage and interact with communities that are linked both to their home and host nations. This journal seeks to look at the ways in which transient migrants cope with transience and how transient migration affects individuals and communities in this transitional yet significant period. The scope of the journal will include but not be limited to themes of belonging, identity, networks, nation, culture, religion, race and ethnicity, gender and memory while incorporating the roles played by various platforms to facilitate these themes such as media, politics, policy, economy and the creative industries.
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