Credible Witness: Identity, Refuge and Hospitality
Julie Matthews & Kwangsook Chung
The University of the Sunshine Coast & Sookmyung Women’s University
Who can be a credible witness to the violence and trauma rooted in the depths of national memory and played out in the body politics of 21st century nation-states? In the transnational turbulence of exile and displacement what kinds of subjects can speak and who can be heard? Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play Credible Witness raises these questions and urges us to consider the kinds of identities and violent histories that produce and are produced by forced migrants. The detention centre and the city would seem to be unlikely spaces for practices of listening or hospitality and yet the play shows how such locations enable consideration of the ambiguities of witnessing, testimony and welcome. Against explicit intent we see how the intermittent, non-systematic experience of hospitality in such sites enables refugees and asylum seekers to speak themselves as subjects of future possibility. This article underlines the nuanced cultural and political mobilities of contemporary postcoloniality. Through an examination of Derrida’s notions of conditional and unconditional hospitality and Agamben’s discussion of witnessing we show how conditions of apparent impossibility open into conditions of possibility.
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© borderlands ejournal 2008