Absolute Hospitality

For Derrida, hospitality is the basis for both culture and ethics. But at the heart of hospitality is a paradox. In order to be meaningful, it has to be limited: a gift that could be withheld, because the host is the one who controls and limits access to the home.

Absolute hospitality would differ fundamentally from more mundane forms. For Derrida, absolute hospitality:


...requires that I open up my home and that I give not only to the foreigner, but to the absolute, unknown, anonymous other, and that I give place to them, that I let them come, that I let them arrive, and take place in the place I offer them, without asking of them either reciprocity (entering into a pact) or even their names.

- Of Hospitality pdf


The host even lets go of the right of invitation. Westmoreland describes the situation.


The host freely shares her home with the new arrival without asking questions. She neither asks for the arrival’s name, nor does she seek any pact with the guest. Such a pact would instigate the placing of the guest under the law. The law of absolute hospitality does not involve an invitation, nor does it involve an interrogation of the guest upon entering. Indeed, there is no need for speech, only silence.

- Interruptions: Derrida and Hospitality pdf


A question arises -- in absolute hospitality can one at least ask that guest speak a common language? Derrida claims no -- the requirement to speak a common language is the First Violence to Foreigners.

Article initially created from text of Hospitable Learning; additional journal history there.