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Ghostpitality I

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Organizer: David Coughlan

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What is the relation between the hospitable house and the haunted house? In a haunted house, who or what extends a welcome? Who invites whom in? When Jacques Derrida devoted his seminars to the subject of hospitality, he did so under the title “Hostility and Hospitality” (1995-97) because, as he explains, hospitality is a word of Latin origin, “a Latin word that allows itself to be parasitized by its opposite, ‘hostility,’ the undesirable guest” (3), so that we have “the foreigner (hostis) welcomed as guest or as enemy. Hospitality, hostility, hostpitality” (Of Hospitality 45). This series, concluding in the neologism hostpitality, is further extended in Derrida’s Aporias, where he links “hostage, host, guest, ghost, holy ghost, and Geist” (60). He declares then: “I would say there is no politics […] without an open hospitality to the guest as ghost” (61).

Ghostpitality, from David Coughlan’s Ghost Writing in Contemporary American Fiction, addresses this relation between hostility, hospitality, and the ghost; or, between the guest as arrivant, the one who arrives unexpectedly, and the guest as ghost or revenant, the one who returns and, perhaps, repossesses. Also, as Derrida points out in Aporias, the French word hôte means both host and guest, but the extending and accepting of an invitation place host and guest on either side of a threshold that determines who is the master of the house. Ghostpitality names the return of the hôte as hôte; it names the haunting of every master by the visitor, of every inside (every self, body, house, nation, “present”) by the outside, of every interior by the anterior and exterior.

This seminar on ghostpitality is interested in the aporias and thresholds of hospitality, of haunted houses and nations, as seen in theory, politics, and visual and literary texts. Possible paper topics may include but are not limited to:

Forms, laws, and conditions of ghostpitality
Forms of guests: ghosts, strangers, visitors, tourists, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, hostages, wanted and unwanted
Forms of hosts: ghosts, selves, masters, colonisers, embassies, sovereign states, networks
Invitation, visitation, revisitation
Hosts and parasites
Specters and hauntology
The future perfect and other haunted presents
Homes and possessions
Crossing thresholds, borders, boundaries, limits, horizons
Papers, documentation, visas, passports
Unexpected arrival, unforeseen event, what happens, what is to come
Decision, responsibility, calculation, power

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