I’ve now read “The Foreigner Question”, which is the first part of Derrida’s “On Hospitality”. I keep pondering over the question of the host. To begin with, I find myself wondering whether or not the whole concept of a host only reinforces the divide, and the hierarchy, between the “inhabitant” and the “guest”, or the “native” and the “immigrant”. To host is to make space for another, to allow them in, to care for them – while remaining separate from them through that very act of taking care. To take care, or responsibility, for something or someone often translates into subtle (or less subtle) forms of governance and micro-management – wanting the other to be well and assuming to know what they need.
Is it really possible to host without any conditions or agreements? Is it possible to host while allowing the other in completely; while exposing and opening oneself to the contingency and unpredictability of this relation, as well as the possibility of being undone or radically altered by it? Would it not be more hospitable to not intentionally host the other, and instead simply allow them to be there? Would this allow for a more equal relation to emerge? When does hosting and being hosted transform into living together, as equals?
Perhaps the problem of hosting has to do with our tendency to hold back in order to make space. There’s an underlying assumption that to make space for someone else, and to accommodate them, I need to withdraw and pull back, as if space was limited and measurable. However, it seems to me that by pulling back, I’m actually making the space and its potentiality smaller rather than more ample. The potentiality of being is diminished through withdrawal, by my not allowing myself to flood and fill the space, and to share this state of abundance with another. Doesn’t my withdrawal signal that the other should also do the same – i.e. not flood or leak freely, but rather regulate and contain themselves? Perhaps my greatest gift to the other could be that of following and expressing my own desire, making myself as comfortable and apparent as possible, and thus giving them space to do the same. Not holding back due to a fear of overstepping, crowding, or hurting the other by being everything one can be.
I’ve now moved onto the second seminar, “Step of Hospitality / No Hospitality”. The following paragraph makes me think (or reminds me of the fact) that the potentiality of the host, and the home, is actually activated through the entrance of the guest. That to become, to move, to enter a state of potentiality, I need the other, and the state of indetermination (s)he brings with her. I am dependent on her.
It’s as if (and an as if always lays down the law here) the stranger – some Oedipus, in fact, in other words the one whose guarded secret about the place of death was going to save the city or promise it salvation through the contract we have just read – as if, then, the stranger could save the master and liberate the power of his host; it’s as if the master, qua master, were prisoner of his place and his power, of his ipseity, of his subjectivity (his subjectivity is hostage). So it is indeed the master the one who invites, the inviting host, who becomes the hostage – and who really always has been. And the guest, the invited hostage, becomes the one who invites the one who invites, the master of the host. The guest becomes the host’s host. The guest (hôte) becomes the host (hôte) of the host (hôte).
I am also now remembering the small inklings of practice I introduced at CARPA. The second one of the exercises was based on the idea of inviting oneself into what is already happening. I was suggesting that the invitation happens through inclusion – that to invite oneself in, or to be invited in, one needs to include the one who invites (the host), which makes the invitation a two-way movement. The inclusion needs to be mutual for it to happen.
How does the inclusion happen, then? What changes in me, and in the space, when I include another in it, and invite them to enter “me”? Does the “me” change already at the threshold, through the act of inviting the other in? What does the intimacy of sharing the space that once was “mine” do to us? Allowing the other to enter also means that there is no going back, to what I was before. I am permanently disturbed and shaken, moved by the other’s entrance and inhabitation.
Desire measures time since its abolition in the stranger’s entering movement: the stranger, here the awaited guest, is not only someone to whom you say “come,” but “enter,” enter without waiting, make a pause in our home without waiting, hurry up and come in, “come inside,” “come within me,” not only toward me, but within me: occupy me, take place in me, which means, by the same token, also take my place, don’t content yourself with coming to meet me or “into my home.” Crossing the threshold is entering and not only approaching or coming.
The group splits in half. Group A enters the room, group B stays outside.
Instructions for group A:
1. Find the spot in the room that feels the most attractive or comfortable for you at the moment.
2. Begin inhabiting the spot by finding a position or a way of moving that feels good to you.
3. Someone will come and visit your home-space. Your task is to allow them in and share your space with them for a while.
Instructions for group B:
1. Enter the space. Choose the person that you feel most drawn to or intrigued by at the moment.
2. Go to the person and find a suitable way of approaching them. You can use different levels and movement qualities, such as walking, crawling or rolling.
3. Spend a moment with the person and let yourself be affected by them. Inhabit their space together with them.
4. Leave the space when it feels right.