Strangers on the Doorstep: Hostility and Hospitality in A Distant Shore

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Abstract

This article focuses on the rising hostility against immigrants / refugees and growing demand for hospitality, in both regional and transnational senses, in Caryl Phillips’s novel A Distant Shore, set in a local place in North England. I think that the author, in examining the parallel conditions of being a stranger in a village and an outsider to the nation, shows that the demands of hospitality are similarly urgent whether sought by nationals or foreigners though these are calibrated differently in terms of scales of belonging. My broader argument is that hospitality is an ethical practice of everyday life that requires continual renegotiation. Inspired by Levinasian ethics, I turn to Derrida’s and Rosello’s meditations on hospitality, which emphasise the metaphorical nature of the host-guest relationship and the tension it inscribes between the finiteness of politics and the infinity of ethics. By exploring the complex relationship between politics and ethics as this is made manifest in the literary representations of ordinary British citizens’ everyday practices, I suggest that this novel not only deals with the UK’s domestic tensions of multiculturalism and ethnic conflict, but also critically reflects on its bewildered (but hardly new) attitude toward the ongoing transnational integration of the new Europe in the postwar period.

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American, British and Canadian Studies

The Journal of Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu

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SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.101

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