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L'Esprit Créateur notion, as Ben Jelloun noted at the time, hospitality has lately proven crucial to a diverse set of writings on pressing issues of race, community, immigration, and integration. The recent fortunes of the idea of hospitality may be taken as an index of the ethical turn in contemporary thought. Hospitality, however, is a fluid term, intersecting law, custom, religion, and philosophy, and it is invoked with unpredictable results in politics, the media, literature, and popular culture. This context , in which hospitality, for better or worse, mediates conflicting claims about French identity and cultural diversity forms the basis of Mireille Rosello's new book. An analysis of immigration policies, political advcxacy, and activism serves as a backdrop to Rosello's study of narratives and films that expose the fraught boundaries of contemporary French culture. One of the rewards of this lively and readable study is its exploration of politics, gender, and immigrant issues through readings of some new and lesser-known novels and films, including Cauwelaert's Un aller simple, Allouache's Salut, cousin! and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's La Promesse. Rosello's book opens with an account of the 1996 protest of some three hundred illegal African immigrants who occupied the Church of Saint Bernard in Paris only to be forcibly ousted by riot police. A watershed event in terms of media coverage and recognition of immigrant issues, the affaire des sans-papiers de Saint-Bernard was also a "linguistic watershed," Rosello points out, due to its substitution of the new term sans-papiers for the more negative clandestins (2). Rosello links this symbolic victory to the fortunes of the term hospitalité in recent times, but points out that hospitality is a metaphor whose implications often remain unexamined. Rosello thus argues that "the vision of the immigrant as guest is a metaphor that has forgotten that it is a metaphor" (3). In an engaging and lucid exposition of political discourse and popular expression, Rosello shows how the notion of hospitality, and its attendant metaphors of "home," "guest" and "host" can mask ideological presuppositions on both the left and the right. Further, cases of state intervention in private hospitality, as in the "Deltombe affair," reveal how individual acts of hospitality may be held accountable to the laws of the state, thereby exposing a "hiatus between politics and ethics" (44). Rosello's analysis of such crises of hospitality is endebted to Derrida, for whom hospitality entails an ethical double bind requiring the simultaneous negotiation of an unconditional ethical law and its conditional specification to a given instance. In this way Rosello avoids the pitfalls of a rigid opposition between hospitality and exclusion so as to interrogate hospitality 's limits and imperfections. As her readings of film and literature demonstrate, such imperfections are in the paradoxical nature of all hospitality, which, she says, is "a practice that cannot tolerate perfection, that is inherently perverse, always and eminently corruptible" (176). To see hospitality between cultures and genders as always imperfect is not, however, simply to resign oneself to failure; it is, as the author shows, to accept risk as opportunity, and to improvise the rules of postcolonial exchange. John Culbkrt University of California at Irvine Sue Peabody and Tyler Stoval, eds. The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2003. $84.95 cloth, $24.95 paper. Pp. 400. French Republican ideals were (and are) clearly incompatible with racism, let alone the ownership of other human beings. But ideals are ideals: slavery continued officially in the French colonies until 1848, with sporadic covert forms continuing to this day, and racism is an ever-present canker in French society as elsewhere. The particular mix of biological and, especially, cultural prejudice in France is unique, however, and it is the roots and manifestations of this multifaceted phenomenon that are explored in this diverse and welcome collection of essays. Blacks are to the forefront alongside resultant biracials; North Africans play a minor role (despite being the prime target of racism in contemporary France) as do Asiatics; Jews get scant mention; and other "races" go unnoticed. The gaze is generally "while." An exception is Alice...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 100-101
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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