This essay responds to Jeffrey Perl’s introduction to a long-term project of Common Knowledge titled “Xenophilia: Symposium on Xenophobia’s Contrary.” (Perl’s introduction, “Self-Identity and Ambivalence,” appears in CK 23, no. 2 [May 2017]: 225–31.) Responding to a cue from Perl, Albera undertakes an archaeology of the intellectual tools that produced the unstable antinomy of the terms xenophilia and xenophobia. Despite the appearance of antiquity conferred by the Greek roots of both terms, they are the product of a fairly recent and quintessentially modern dynamic. They integrate tacit assumptions of a modern nationalist posture that produces fixed identities and categorizations. Instead of this compromised pair of terms, Albera offers philoxenia, with its distinct genealogy, as it delimits a reciprocal commitment to hospitality, which is pragmatic and relatively unproblematic, rather than a demand for love or an expectation of loathing. The concept of xenophilia presupposes an abstract category—the xenos—that it regards as anterior to, and independent of, any concrete determinations, while philoxenia understands the xenos to be a quite specific individual. Philoxenia, moreover, does not subscribe to the identity principle: the alien, in the relationship known as philoxenia, is not conceived as differing radically from oneself or even as being self-identical or coherent. And finally, while the xenophile’s feelings tend to oscillate between supposedly coherent cultural positions, philoxenia is characterized by ambiguity, which produces none of the symptoms engendered by the ambivalence of xenophilia.
Dionigi Albera; Beyond Xenophilia. Common Knowledge 1 January 2020; 26 (1): 39–64. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7899587
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