Migration and Resilience: Between Hospitality and Hostility (Panel)


Comparative Literature / French and Francophone

Emily Eyestone (Princeton University)

Liana Pshevorska (Wesleyan University)

Whether out of choice or out of need, an increasing number of people reside in a country other than the one where they were born, and their experiences (re)shape cultural and narrative landscapes. The past decade has seen a surge in nationalist and antidemocratic movements, which have often coalesced in reaction against migration. Conservative politicians in Europe and North America have capitalized upon anti-immigration sentiment to ramp up border control, police racially- and linguistically-marginalized communities, and enforce ideas of citizenship based on racial and ethnic sameness.

In an etymological reconstruction of the word “hospitality,” Emile Benveniste commented on the double meaning of its root "hostis," which could refer to the guest or the enemy. Interrogating the limits of hospitality, it reveals a paradigm of control and an ambivalent position of a stranger who could either be “favorable” or “hostile.” Investigating hospitality as an ethical question, Jacques Derrida (2000) advances that hospitality is parasitized by the antipodal hostility, producing his famous portmanteau term: hostipitality. The two are intertwined, and one dwells in the shadow of the other. In "Poetics of Relation," Edouard Glissant rethinks this alternation between hospitality and hostility through the moving image of the beach as a threshold, an ambiguous distinction between land and sea. This framing helps consider (in)hospitality from several perspectives: 1) as practices of inclusion/exclusion; 2) as spaces enforced by judiciary control and regulation, or cultivated in solidarity); and 3) as migrant-host relationships in light of collective and individual identity categories.

Our panel seeks to discuss the various dimensions of migration at the intersection of hostility and hospitality, considering both the delights of being hybrid and the distress of feeling homeless. Expanding migration beyond the concept of border-crossing, how can we understand the figure of a migrant? How can we conceptualize the thresholds and limits of hospitality in the context of global mobilities? In what ways does migrant/migration literature offer alternative perspectives for approaching these questions? We invite papers from all fields of contemporary world literature on the topic of migration, including but are not limited to:

Precarity, integration, assimilation

Biopolitics, dehumanization of migrants/asylum seekers

Citizenship, statelessness, and human rights

Nationalism vs cosmopolitanism, globalization

Metropole vs colony

Climate migration

Monolingualism, multilingualism, language and migration

Common places, whole-world, errantry (Glissant)

Considering various paradigms of hospitality with regard to migration (Derrida, Glissant), this panel examines the ambivalent position of a “stranger” who can either be perceived as a guest or an enemy. How can we understand the thresholds and limits of (in)hospitality in the context of global mobilities?