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Notions of hospitality and issues of receiving migrants and refugees have been highlighted in the political rhetoric and various critical and literary approaches. The concept of hospitality is rooted in the interactions, or non-actions between both the host and the guest, and is tied to relational dynamics of knowledge and power. As Michel Foucault states, “there is no power relation without the correlative construction of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations” (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 27). Power is generated in relation to the Other; one member has power when the other lacks. Therefore, knowledge and lack of knowledge can be considered as actions, since they constitute what pushes and pulls the actors in the host situation.

When this knowledge is linguistic, or takes on characteristics of speech acts, it in turn holds a space of its own and shakes up the rules of engagement between a host and guest, and poses the following questions: How are hospitality roles formed among the migrants, or Others themselves? Are the notions of oppression and control, both physically and ideologically, addressed in terms of an internal code—or code switching—among the guests themselves? Is there a push and pull connected to a ‘host of hosts’ identity? And can ‘hospitable violence’ be understood by linguistic means? And finally, how does the maternal pathos emerge to be the strongest (linguistic) actor against a patriarchal host-figure? The answers to these questions rest on an analysis at the intersection of Michel Foucault’s theories of knowledge and power, Teun van Dijk and Norman Fairclough’s developments in critical discourse analysis, as well as De Certeau’s concepts of language space.

In Junot Díaz’ This is How You Lose Her, and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, the concept of linguistic space helps demonstrate the interplay of different occupied spaces throughout the stories, at the same time that it uncovers overarching themes of knowledge, power, and oppression. In both collections, migrant families must come to terms with occupying a different type of spatiality; one that is both of the physical and the non-physical, a geographic reality and a verbal reality. In The House on Mango Street, those who “No Speak English” are reduced to occupying the bottom rung of society, and in “Invierno,” speaking English is seen as the key to gaining access to the outside world. And, in both collections, a mother-figure becomes a prisoner in different apartments because of linguistic barriers. Figures alluding to a ‘hosted host’ identity permeate both collections, as there are actors among the guest groups that take on a Gatekeeper role, and passage through the gate becomes a driving force among the characters. Norman Fairclough (2010) develops this notion of access and power, and assigns a conceptual function to those who control this discoursal access. The powerful enactors, or “Gatekeepers,” are the ones that have control over the flux of knowledge and access to discourse (47). The idea of ‘power behind discourse’ posits that the whole social order of discourse is constructed and maintained as a hidden effect of power in that discourses depend on special knowledge and skills which have to be learned (19-68). Key players in the collections observe that the lack of language creates a powerlessness, but that the ability to pass through planes of linguistic space will give them power.

In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture
In: Latinidad at the Crossroads
Insights into Latinx Identity in the Twenty-First Century
In Latinidad at the Crossroad: Insights into Latinx identity in the Twenty-First Century Gerke and González Rodríguez provide flashing glimpses into the ways in which Latinas/os struggle to forge their multiracial and multicultural identities within their own communities and in mainstream U.S. society. This volume encompasses an interdisciplinary perspective on the complex range of latinidades that confronts stereotypical connotations, and simultaneously advocates a more flexible (re)definition that may overcome static collective representations of identity, ethnicity and belonging. Well-positioned in the current political context, the notion of latinidad is examined as a complex sociological phenomenon of identity-construction which is affected by outside influences and is used as a powerful linguistic, cultural and ideological weapon to denounce oppression and deconstruct stereotypes. Including chapters from foundational and influential scholars, this collection moves towards a dynamic exploration of how Latinx are remapping their identity positions in twenty-first century America.

Contributors: Francisco A. Lomelí, José Antonio Gurpegui, Esther Álvarez López, Ylce Irizarry, Luisa María González Rodríguez, Ewa Antoszek, Fernando Aquino.
In: Latinidad at the Crossroads
The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture explores hospitality in a range of cultural expressions from a variety of approaches. The authors analyze and discuss forms of hospitality in canonical literature, ethnic literatures, language or movies. These span from the classical to the contemporary and include a focus on language, power, hybridism, and sociology. The common theme in these contributions is that of American identity. By looking at a diversity of representations of American culture, using a multiplicity of approaches, the authors convey the richness of American hospitality as a vital aspect of its culture.


The introduction to this volume makes a brief survey of the concept of hospitality in history, focusing on Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, and describes the content of the chapters. Starting with Immanuel Kant and his notion of hospitality based on reciprocity, the authors of the introduction move towards Levinas’s ethical hospitality as it shapes our identity, since we are constituted by the Other’s self. For Levinas, hospitality is defined in terms of space and of care, while Jacques Derrida attempted to reconcile the ethical and the political in his theorization of the concept in the light of contemporary needs. For him, it is absolutely necessary a negotiation between the law of the nation and the Law of hospitality, otherwise hospitality will always be conditioned.

This first chapter also summarizes how the authors of the book have written on the reflection of hospitality in American literature and culture, the way it has shifted to a discussion on race, culture and identity, and also the way it explains a new Other. The authors agree that literature and culture create a space that becomes a refuge for hospitality. Thus, language, space, and hospitality structure the book, since hospitality, though represented in terms of space, starts with linguistic interaction. The introduction also deals with the construction of dominant and subordinate identities in a space that is familiar and that eventually becomes the place of interaction, negotiation, social action, and linguistic hospitality. Finally, it also surveys briefly how hospitality has been represented in American literature across the centuries, and the ways in which American authors have responded to the political pressures of their times by representing either conditioned or unconditioned hospitality.

In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture