Trick questions: cosmopolitan hospitality

Eleanor Byrne

Manchester Metropolitan University


Byrne’s paper consists of two parallel texts. The first explores the limits of cosmopolitanism in practice, taking as its subject the Life in the UK Citizenship Test, inaugurated under the Labour Government in 2005.  It argues that the test exemplifies the predicament of all attempts at cosmopolitan hospitality as unconditional welcoming, through a discussion of the relation between questioning and welcoming the stranger. Establishing the relationship between cosmopolitanism and hospitality as envisaged in Derrida’s reading of Kant it asks what kind of cosmopolitan hospitality is either possible or desirable by exploring what Derrida calls the ‘perversions’ inherent in the structures of hospitality. It focuses on the concept of the ‘trick questions’ that the state asks the foreigner observed by Derrida in his reading of The Apology of Socrates; questions that seem to invite answers but foreclose the possibilities of a free response. The second text asks how this logic that Derrida identifies can be pushed or coaxed into new ways of addressing the perceived threats of ‘unconditional’ hospitality through a reading of ‘unconditional hospitality’ as queer in the work of Tove Jansson.

Full text (PDF, 961KB)

DOI: 10.5456/issn.5050-3679/2013s08eb

Biographical note
Eleanor Byrne is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Her research and teaching covers twentieth century British and Postcolonial literature and theory. She has written on Salman Rushdie, intersections between postmodernism and postcolonial theory and postcolonial archives. Recent publications include a monograph, Homi K. Bhabha, (Palgrave, 2009), ‘Texting Obama’ Comparative American Studies, vol.10, Double issue 2–3 (Co-Editor), 2012. She is currently researching a monograph on the representation of Hawaii in contemporary literature and culture.