Migration, an Inescapable Demand: The Responsibility of Hosting and the Right to Hospitality

This essay investigates the problem of “citizenship” with special reference to the signs of European identity. The concept of “citizenship” is connected with “nation” and is generally understood in terms of “identity-difference.” Citizenship is also connected with “community,” in this case “European Community.” “Community” is normally invested with a restrictive meaning based on “identity,” closed identity. This makes for a closed community rather than an open community, “open society” (Charles Morris). Moreover, community is generally understood as a “work community,” where hospitality is subordinate to employment, no differently from the Nazi Gemeinschaft (community) where even Jews were safe if provided with a work certificate (Schindler’s List, by Steven Spielberg). As foreseen by Umberto Eco in the early 1990s, “migration” is a major problem, if not the major problem, for the European Union in today’s world. This problem is connected with the relation between “identity” and “alterity.” Eco was among the first to distinguish clearly between “migration” and traditional “emigration/immigration.” Unlike “emigration,” “migration” appeals to “unconditional welcome,” to “hospitality” toward the other more than to accords and international exchanges. “Migration” interrogates “human rights,” putting the dominant interpretation thereof into crisis: as denounced by Emmanuel Levinas, “human rights” are most often reduced to the “rights of identity” from which the “rights of the other” are excluded. But the whole question of European citizenship, which is the problem of European identity, of identity tout court calls for social planning that is not subservient to the “ideo-logic” of profit, self-interest, productivity, functionality. The task of social planning, therefore of proposing viable social programs is urgent for the sake of a healthy European Union in terms of the properly human. The question of citizenship is crucially important for global humanity, in Europe, the United States of America, for national identity over the globe, and calls for the expertise of semioticians, in particular practitioners of “global semiotics” oriented in the sense of semioethics. The human being is a “semiotic animal” endowed with “semiosis” like all other life-forms, but uniquely also with “metasemiosis,” a capacity for reflection on signs, and for deliberation. As a “semiotic animal” and not only “semiosic animal,” the human is the only living being capable of responsibility. Responsibility is not abstract, but concerns life over the planet and must respond to the other’s demand, to the other simply for existing, to the other as presence, singularity, as a unique I, self. The question of identity is the question of alterity; the question of citizenship is the question of how to respond to the other and for the other, how to account to the other and for the other. These and related topics are at the centre of the present essay, which is developed around the following headings: 1. Citizenship, nation, migration; 2. Open identity, global communication and responsibility; 3. Contradictions, mystifications and paradoxes – juridical, political and ethical; 4. Listening as an unconditional condition; 5. Beyond reason: reasonableness; 6. Identity and alterity in Europe; 7. The European Constitution: a real entity or and illusion?; 8. Justice, migration, citizenship; 9. Identity and Identities; 10. Searching for ways out – out-of-identity, out-of-place; 11. Otherwise than the being of things as they are; 12. Global semiotics, global citizenship.

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