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  • Liberal Multiculturalism and the Ethics of Hospitality in the Age of Globalization
  • Meyda Yegenoglu

This article problematizes the liberal imperative to tolerate and respect cultural difference under globalization and suggests that it is far from displacing the sovereignty of the host society in question. By making a detour through Derrida’s reading of the aporias of conditional hospitality, it suggests that codified multiculturalist tolerance (a form of conditional hospitality) enables the subject to appropriate a universal and sovereign place from which the other is welcomed. Regulating the destabilizing force of the political by enabling a disavowed and inverted self-referentiality of racist hospitality, conditional hospitality entails the repudiation, limitation, or foreclosure of politics proper. To reformulate the problematic of multiculturalism in ethical terms, it follows Derrida’s reading of unconditional hospitality which involves an intentional attention to the other which entails an “interruption of the self by the self as other.” To rethink the relationship between conditional and unconditional hospitality in political terms, it examines the limitations and congealments conditional hospitality imposes on politics proper. By articulating Antonio Negri’s concepts of constituent and constitutive power it establishes parallelism between constituted power and conditional hospitality. Locating the possibility for a democratic politics in the ethical opening unconditional hospitality will bring about, it suggests that such an opening can function to uphold the creative force of constituent power. Further, in resisting constitutionalization, unconditional hospitality can open up the irreducible nature of the political as well as the possibility of an ethical being where the otherness of the foreigner is recognized. This can be seen as the opposite of the foreclosure of the “right to have rights” or democratic politics that is managed by conditional hospitality.

The increasing political presence of refugees and immigrants in post-Cold war Europe has generated considerable debate about the nature of multicultural society. The demand for the recognition of cultural, racial, and ethnic differences has come to occupy a central place in the forms of post-national politics emergent today. Yet, a closer examination of the juridico-political regulations developed in response to these demands reveals a troubling tendency: cultural/racial difference is translated into an understanding of cultural diversity that treats minorities, to use David Bennett’s term, as “add-ons” (5) to the existing nation form. Thus the question becomes whether such an “additive model” (5) is capable of inducing a radical transformation in the concept of the sovereign position of the national self. This essay addresses the limitations of this procedural multiculturalist valorization and argues that the liberal imperative to tolerate and respect cultural difference is far from displacing the sovereignty of the host society in question. In discussing these limitations, I will situate liberal multiculturalism in the context of today’s capitalist globalization.

When we examine the policies and programs through which the culturally different is valorized today, it becomes clear that liberalism has become the regulative principle in many metropolitan countries. Yet it is far from clear whether such a liberal valorization and the granting of legal rights to non-normative citizens, the ethnically and racially “different,” will prove to be a counter-hegemonic political force. Is the legal codification of respect for identities in their particularity adequate for reinventing a democratic political space? If such politicization does not flourish in particularist liberal multiculturalism, then we need to be vigilant about what is being left intact. In fact, we need to take our vigilance one step further and question the ways in which such codification regulates the destabilizing force of the political and entails its repudiation, suspension, limitation, or foreclosure.

We are witnessing an increasing proliferation of literature trying to understand the new economic, political, and cultural arrangements that are inaugurated by global capital. The accelerating rate of the international division of labor, the extended capacity of multinational production, the development and concentration of global financial and banking services and culture industries, the rapid development in telecommunications, and the growth of a global mass culture have led many to talk about a process by which the world is now becoming a single and unified space. Globalization, according to the advocates of this position, marks the beginning of a process whereby...

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