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Abstract

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, when political debates concerning strangers and foreigners often gestured towards hostility, Jacques Derrida took the exact opposite position, demanding that the stranger and foreigner be welcomed with unconditional hospitality. As with the other themes that fall within Derrida’s political and ethical corpus, readers of his discussions on hospitality often find it difficult to reconcile his proposed position with any practical application. In particular, readers often take issue with the extreme vulnerability that he demands of the acting agent and the consistent questioning of his position’s possibility. This paper attempts to address the motivations behind his radical demands by exploring points of congruence with Georges Bataille’s project of inner experience, focusing particularly on a shared understanding of the role that nonknowledge plays in necessitating both extreme risk and impossibility. I contend that the central role of nonknowledge frames Derrida’s unconditional hospitality as a Bataillen project of self-ruination.

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