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3 Introduction Facets of the Alien To pose the alien as a special theme is to have missed it already. For it means to begin from the place of the familiar and the known, and if the journey goes as planned, to expect to return to the same place. Most certainly , the experience of the alien will bring about a change, maybe even a catharsis. Yet, in the end, the original familiarity will prevail; it might even expand or deepen itself. And since the alien is not harmless, it might alienate us from ourselves. Hence the perpetual motivation to resist, avoid, or assimilate the alien. However, giving in to this motivation is to make the subject remain at home with himself or herself. It also means that the strong fortifications of an order which excludes the unordered should remain in place, preventing the alien from disturbing us from within. The alien can inspire curiosity and imagination, it can even enlighten us about ourselves—all this must be granted. Yet as soon as the alien breaks into the arcanum of freedom and reason, it trips the “chaos” alarm. Freedom and reason take up their arms. They fight because otherwise they would need to give up on themselves. But, inevitably, alienness leads to hostility, which only escalates, with each involved party becoming more and more committed to their belief that they alone have right on their side. We become watchful of the other, moving closer together. There are certain safety devices built into an experiential network, which originates in what is one’s own and seeks a hold in what is common. Assumed to be coming from the outside, the alien is expected to carry its identification at all times as if it were an intruder. It then becomes subjected to evaluation and judgment. As a result, an everyday moral, political, religious, cultural, and also intellectual quarantine is imposed on it. If we take the alien, in contrast, as something that cannot be pinned down, if we take it as something which seeks us out in our own home (German heimsuchen) by disturbing, enticing, or terrifying us, by surpassing our expectations and eluding our grasp, then this means that the experience of the alien always affects our own experience and thus turns into a becoming-alien of experience. Alienness is self-referential, and it is contagious . Its effects precede any thematization. A phenomenology of the alien, which was already anticipated by Husserl in several of his groundbreaking concepts (namely, alien experience, alien ego, alien body, or alien world), has the makings of a science that approaches the alien in 4 I N T R O D U C T I O N toto, taking the radicality of alien experience seriously rather than resting content with the reductions to such problems as constitution, understanding , or the practical recognition of the alien. Many familiar problems acquire new contours when the shadow of the alien falls on them. A phenomenologist who confronts the demands of a xenology will find herself in the company of those who allow themselves to be inspired by Marcel Mauss, Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, or Mikhail Bakhtin—not to mention congenial literary figures like Kafka, Musil, Celan, Valéry, and Calvino. However, the world of the arts lives by a different calendar. The artistic sensorium could easily surpass the limits of self-certainty and principium if it is to get involved with the alien. The present study does not seek to cover the alien problematics in all of its daunting entirety. It only identifies some basic motifs that inspired the author to develop a phenomenology of the alien with a special series of books on the alien. The first volume of the series came out in 1990 under the title The Sting of the Alien (Der Stachel des Fremden).1 Motifs are the moving powers which push matters forward, instead of merely providing retroactive justification for having addressed them. There is no sufficient justification or explanation for the experience of the alien, just as there is none for wonder, terror, love, hate, or those miniature disruptions which announce the arrival of something new. The individual chapters of this book are designed in such a way as to address a particular programmatic component of alien problematics. Their order corresponds to the individual phases in which the phenomenology of the alien has taken shape; they can thus be read as introductory or explanatory supplementary texts for the more extensive studies that...


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