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Ethics of hospitality: envisaging the stranger in the contemporary world

Fotou, Maria (2016) Ethics of hospitality: envisaging the stranger in the contemporary world. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The main contention of this thesis is that traditional IR approaches, ethics of migration literature and a part of the poststructural scholarship, either implicitly but also often explicitly, are based on an exclusionary, hierarchical understanding of the Other and an Us versus Them ordering of society even when they purport to contradict it. As such, they engender a collective ethos, which, despite these approaches’ initial intentions or pronounced humanitarian commitments, does not take into account the stranger Other beyond a lordship/bondage view on one hand and allow for exacerbating the violence towards the Other/ stranger on the other. This exacerbation can be noted when looking at current hospitality practices (detention camps; “closed hospitality centres”; state sanctioned illegal push-backs of refugees; “fortress Europe” kind of policies, etc.). Whilst accepting this is not a new problem (movement of individuals, post-conflict waves of refugees, liminal figures in societies and communities have always been present and have constituted parts of on-going theoretical discussions in IR, bringing out theoretical tensions and difficulties), the thesis argues that there are certain novelties to be found: namely, a strengthened overarching security narrative and the resulting militarisation of the treatment of strangers. Against this background, my thesis notes the relative absence of any ethically engaged discussion around hospitality and finds it problematic. It proposes the reconsideration in IR of an umbrella term naming the liminal abject Other. It then argues for the need to reconsider the Levinasian understanding of the ethical responsibility towards the singular and multiple Others through the concept of fraternity. Finally, it revisits the Derridean theorisation of hospitality, i.e., hospitality as an opening up of theory to the “missing” or the Other in Western thought beyond an “Us/ Them” understanding, through an affirmative reading of autoimmunity, arguing that the autoimmunitary ethics of hospitality can enact the ethical responsibility by crossing the threshold of undecidability towards an opening to the Other.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Maria Fotou
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hutchings, Kimberly

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