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  • Editorial
  • Brian Batchelor, Hannah Rackow, and Denise Rogers Valenzuela

Is not hospitality an interruption of the self?

Jacques Derrida, Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas

And I have heard it said, unbidden guestsAre often welcomest when they are gone.

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, 2.2

Welcome. Bienvenue. Bienvenido. Make yourself at home. Fais comme chez toi. Mi casa es su casa.1 Welcome to our issue of Canadian Theatre Review, issue number 177: Radical Hospitalities.

What does it mean to be welcoming? What does it mean to feel welcome? By welcoming you to this issue, we establish a series of interrelated ideas: a home and an away, a familiar and an unfamiliar, an us and a you, as well as an ours and a yours. When we welcome you, what does our relationship to you become, what are our obligations to each other, and what/who is left out of this process? Likewise, when we invite you to "make yourselves at home," what relations do we instantiate? Furthermore, as guest editors of this journal, is it our place to position ourselves as hosts who have the power to welcome?

Welcoming is an act of hospitality, a difficult concept to define because it occurs across multiple scales and contexts. Stó:lō scholar Dylan Robinson notes that acts of welcome occur across various sites: "We welcome people into our homes, on to Indigenous lands, into countries, and to events we have organized" (16). Similarly, acts of hospitality engage a wide range of situations and behaviours as they occur across "both the most intimate acts of domestic experience and the broadest of platforms of law, diplomacy, theology, and ethics" (Goldstein and Lupton 3). In this way, hospitality is, all at once, "an ancient classical tradition, a philosophical value, an ethical imperative, a political issue, and also a polymorphous individual practice" (Rosello 6).

To put hospitality into practice—to be hospitable—is more than just being friendly or being in service to others. For Robin­son, acts of welcome are not merely just "friendly gesture[s] of greeting," but also performative acts that "signal sovereign control over the rules of the space and the authority under which rules are enforced" (16). Likewise, for the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, to gather together on equal ground, without claims of sovereignty or control, is not, strictly speaking, possible. To extend hospitality is to initiate a relationship steeped in power dynamics for, to be hospitable, one must have the power to host: the notion of hospitality itself requires one to be the "master" of the house and therefore set the rules and be in control (qtd. in Derrida and Dufourmantelle 149).2 In this way, hospitality is both contingent and contractual. Calling this process "conditional hospitality," Derrida argues that hospitable behaviour is always tethered to a desired outcome, a return on one's investment (in hospitality): acting hospitable to ensure appropriate guest behaviour, to provoke nationalism, or to exclude certain groups, or ethnicities—certain bodies—from a sovereign space (qtd. in Derrida and Dufourmantelle 151–55).3 That is to say, every act of hospitality is always already also an act of possible exclusion. Acts of hospitality contain both welcome and hostility.

Radical hospitality, as a concept, emerges from multiple contexts. According to Derrida, hospitality becomes radical when freed from its conditions. Unconditional hospitality, what he calls "absolute hospitality," emerges when we give up control over our sovereign spaces and the thresholds that define them—from ourselves to our homes to our nation-states. This is not only about welcoming an Other unconditionally, but about giving them the possibility to control and alter the relationships between host and guest, self and stranger: that we "give place to them" (25). If hosting is predicated on being in control, then, by giving control to our guests, we can no longer be hosts and they are no longer guests. This process becomes a radical form of new beginnings by "offering the very possibility of a future undetermined by present conditions" (Dikeç et al. 6). Derrida's concept of absolute hospitality is largely impossible because the world is increasingly "circumscribed by state boundaries and regulations" (Dikeç et al. 7). It is possible then...


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