2020-21 COOP study group: ReSituating and ReCalibrating Hostipitality.Tutor Team: Akinbode Akinbiyi and Kamila Metwaly. Partner: SAVVY Contemporary
ReSituating and ReCalibrating Hostipitality.
How can we deliberate upon, speak of and reconceptualize cultures of hospitality in such our era?
Maybe an appropriate point of departure for such an exercise would be Jacques Derrida’s notion of “hostipitality” wherein he purports that there is always a kind of hostility in all hosting and hospitality. The conditionality of hospitality?
Not only in this current context is the paradigm of hospitality of importance, but as history reveals, from time immemorial, humans have moved freely or by force from A to B, and have always relied on the hospitality of the host to find a resting place. In his philosophy of hospitality, Derrida differentiates between the “law of hospitality” and “laws of hospitality:”
The law of unlimited hospitality (to give the new arrival all of one’s home and oneself, to give him or her one’s own, our own, without asking a name, or compensation, or the fulfilment of even the smallest condition), and on the other hand, the laws (in the plural), those rights and duties that are always conditioned and conditional, as they are defined by the Greco-Roman tradition and even the Judeo-Christian one, by all of law and all philosophy of law up to Kant and Hegel in particular, across the family, civil society, and the State.
Derrida, who considers hospitality as always conditional, sees the exercise of hospitality on two practical levels of inviting and welcoming the “stranger:” at the personal level of the private home, or at the level of the nation state. But he also sees in the concept of hospitality an ambiguity that stems far back from its proto-In- do-European etymological derivation which encompasses the words “stranger,” “guest” – but also “power.” This power gradient inherent in the concept of hospitality is at the root of what Derrida called “an essential ‘self-limitation’ built right into the idea of hospitality, which preserves the distance between one’s own and the stranger, between owning one’s own property and inviting the other into one’s home.”
So by welcoming someone into your home, you, the host, have the possibility of exercising power. Here, a few things could be taken into consideration: while you give your guest a “roof over his or her head,” the pleasure doesn’t only come from the altruistic act, but also from keeping your guest at your mercy, especially if there is an existential, economic and political dependence. Also, there is an element of power in making the guest the “other,” constructing the subordinate, or through a process of identification categorizing the guest. Concepts of hospitality see-saw in balancing acts of the host renouncing, and at the same time proclaiming, his or her mastery. The concept of hospitality encompasses these schizophrenic acts of invitation or attraction to “feel at home,” and at the same time of repulsion by reminding that the guest doesn’t share property and is expected to leave. Therefore, the guest is always a guest and always in a state of limbo, except in those cases, like colonialism, where the guest comes with the power of suppression, denigration, disappropriation, dispossession and dehumanization. Otherwise, the guest is always in a state of coming and never arriving. Looking at Derrida’s points from the perspective of the nation state, for example in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium with the concepts of the “Gastarbeiter” (migrant guest workers), or in the Nordic countries “invandringsarbetarskraft” (workforce-immigration), which imported workers from Turkey, Italy, Spain and all over the Southern Hemisphere from the 1950s to 70s, this would mean that these so called “guests,” who were and are still expected to leave, will forever be in a state of limbo.
The scenario becomes even more complex when one thinks of other constellations, as in the case of refugees who come into a country as mostly unwanted “guests” – especially because their coming is not tied to any particular economic gain on the side of the host, or contexts of colonial dependencies. Here again the power gradient expresses itself in multifold dimensions, e.g. the colonizer as a “guest” using force to stay in the colony, the ex-colonizer using force to evict the ex-colonized from the territory of the metropolis etcetera.
The relationship between the host and the guest is conditional, and it is a thin line between being a guest or a parasite, as both exist sometimes simultaneously, side-by-side, parallel, one-after-the-other. Despite this, Derrida puts into question the limitations of national hospitality toward legal and illegal immigrants.
LISTENING TO IMAGES AND WAYS OF SEEING SOUND
In this COOP we will be looking at possible ways of listening to images and ways of seeing sound. In our monthly meetings, we would like to engage with various forms of understanding the intersection of Hostipitality with the visual and sonic domains. Maybe we consider these series of meetings rather visitations, where in each COOP study session we will be visiting a story, an object, an image, a sound, linked to the question of hostipitality in our times.
We will visit stories of ghosts living among us, with us and in us, and inquire into the words of Tina Campt through her proposals into Listening to Images. The COOP sessions will deploy methods to attentively listen to our bodies, land/soundscapes, and architectures, and the everyday life that surrounds us.
Listening to records and listening to those whose music is an embodiment of the politics of ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’ such as Jacques Coursil and Miriam Makebais is to become a frequent activity within each monthly gathering. The group will read the liner notes and in between the lines, reflect on the images and cover art of the records and overall engage with the act of ‘putting a record on’ as a gesture and a call to deconstruct alterity.
In addition, this COOP will be looking at radio as a tool to navigate hybridity through proposals into participatory radio formats. Especially in times when a pandemic, constantly in movement, morphs, amplifies and refuses to stand in one place, we would like to ask who decides where geographies begin and end? Do we consider hostipitality a performative practice aiming to radically repudiate invisible borders and limiting geographies inscribed in the history of Europe as a modern human construct? To break and counter the violent chronicles of radio history, we will engage with speculative narrations (in the form of storytelling, fiction, documentary and otherwise) as means of rendering the invisible visible.
To explore the commonality of hospitality when the visual and sonic happen at the same time, we seek inspiration from the words of the Rwandese philosopher Isaïe Nzyimana, to deploy rhythm as a methodology to expand temporal historical and spatial geographical relationships of seeing and listening. Nzyimana writes that “in rhythm there is the idea of harmony, there’s the idea of symmetry, there is the idea of order, there is also the idea of the movement. The order recalls movement. The order is in movement (...) I consider rhythm as a movement… of a “together”.”
WORDS / VOICES OF INSPIRATION:
- Listening to images by Tina Campt;
- Sonic Meditations by Pauline Oliveros;
- Isaïe Nzyimana (various encounters);
- Necropolitics by Achile Mbembe;
- The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening by Jennifer Stoever (expanding the concept of Color Line as proposed by W.E.B Du Bois);
- Various albums by Miriam Makeba;
- Hospitality Suite by Jacques Coursil;
- Lynnée Denise - Sampling the archive;
- Ahdaf Al Soueif, focus on Palestine;
- Jihan El Tahri, looking into the Great Divide as explored in her filmic works;
- Poetry of Tsitsi Ella Jaji