Volume 22, Issue 1/2, January/July 2021
Migration and Mobility
Beyond the Welcoming Rhetoric
Hospitality as a Principle of Care for the Displaced
The concept of hospitality has seen a strong revival in the literature on migration and among pro-migrant activists. However, its meaning, its scope, and the nature of the obligations it imposes remain contested. Open-border advocates see hospitality as a moral principle of openness that should trump nationalist arguments for closure, while nationalists tap into the home analogy and compare the state to a household welcoming migrants as guests, whose stay should accordingly be temporary and marked by gratitude. Some consider hospitality a virtue that should translate into a personal responsibility to open one’s doors to others, while some politicise the concept to apply it to borders and state duties towards migrants. This paper unpacks the various literal and metaphorical meanings of the age-old concept of hospitality, and the shortcomings of its rhetorical uses. It then argues for a conception of hospitality as a principle of care towards displaced people. Hospitality alleviates ordinary obstacles that prevent a functional life in a new environment and allows for home-making practices. It is triggered by the vulnerability created by displacement, i.e., the material, emotional and political harms resulting from the loss of a home.