The Blind-Spots of Kantian Hospitality
Jennifer Bagelman* and Jennifer Vermilyea**
*Durham University **McMaster University
Kant’s ‘enlightening’ project of hospitality paradoxically leaves us with the most violent of blind-spots. His hospitality sheds light on a universal humanity only by eclipsing and rendering speechless a multitude of lives outside the state, particularly the figure of the refugee. Although a Kantian hospitality depends upon a logic of governmentality, we suggest that where the figure of the refugee is concerned in his work, a sovereign power relation prevails. Here we draw upon, and move beyond, Giorgio Agamben to ask: If the refugee is simply reduced to speechless bare life in Kant’s framing, can there be political agency for this figure? Exploring the stories of two well-known migrant activists, Abas Amini and Merhan Nasseri, we suggest that the speechlessness and invisibility imposed through a Kantian hospitality may be transformed into political voice and presence in such a way that viscerally embodies Derrida’s assertion that ‘keeping silent is already a modality of possible speaking’ (Derrida 2000, p. 135).
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© borderlands ejournal 2012