Equity as Hospitable Encounter by Brianne Christensen
In my accompanying video, I offer an introduction to the ethical concerns of hospitality studies and migration ethics. These discourses function together to theorize an ethics of encounter at various fronts, such as the nation, the community, the domicile, and the body. In Strange Encounters, Sara Ahmed explores “strange encounters” with aliens not of the extra-terrestrial kind, but strangers who have been alienated, marginalized, and dehumanized by cultural and socio-political norms (1). The politics of difference that mark these strangers as strange are not “found” on the body but, rather, are “determined through encounters” with others (Ahmed 9). In recoiling from the stranger during these encounters––even unconsciously––we refuse to recognize the stranger as human, as equal, and we thereby ignore the fact that we, ourselves, are the stranger to our stranger (Kearney 5). This disgust and abjection of the stranger is what Ahmed calls a “close encounter” (2). To address these close encounters, I suggest a turn to the literature of our contemporary moment, which is tasked with responding to the problem of precarious security and conditional welcome in a time of heightened nationalism and globalization.
In my MA thesis, I expose the dialogue between hospitality studies and migration ethics present in Ali Smith’s recently completed Seasonal Quartet. I suggest that Autumn (2016), Winter (2017), Spring (2019), and Summer (2020)––the four novels of the quartet––exhibit a hospitality beyond the thematic crossing of national borders. The quartet promotes an affective state of security that urges readers to receive the stranger in many forms. Smith’s work thus marks an ethical turn to a socially accountable fiction. Although I am interested in how literature negotiates an ethical response to the inhospitable realities of our contemporary moment, these discourses also contribute to discussions of equity, belonging, and welcome in non-literary worlds. Questions central to hospitality are relevant in considerations of how to promote inclusion in our local communities and on campus. Moreover, migration ethics––and the related concern of who can move in the world, who can move well, and who can be welcomed when they do––is particularly apt as we navigate anxieties of exposure and security, and unequal vulnerability to bodily threats in the ongoing pandemic. Equity, which signals to me a striving for hospitable encounters, encourages reflection of how to take responsibility for our role as individuals in interconnected and interdependent communities.
Ahmed, Sara. (2013). Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. Taylor & Francis.
Balfour, Lindsay Anne. (2018). Hospitality in a Time of Terror: Strangers at the Gate. Bucknell University Press.
Kearney, Richard. (2002). Strangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting Otherness. Routledge.
Smith, Ali. (2016). Autumn. Penguin Random House.
–––. (2019). Spring. Penguin Random House.
–––. (2020). Summer. Penguin Random House.
–––. (2017). Winter. Penguin Random House.
About the author: Brianne Christensen is a first year graduate student in the MA in English program. A bookworm by nature, Brianne’s childhood love of literature fuelled her interest in the way that stories connect people across time, space, and other boundaries. Her research interests include hospitality studies, narratology, diaspora, and women’s writing.