Hosting the Stranger: Between Religions
edited by Richard Kearney and James Taylor, Continuum, New York (2011)

Hosting the Stranger features ten powerful meditations on the theme of interreligious hospitality by eminent scholars and practitioners from the five different wisdom traditions: Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic. By gathering thinkers from different religious traditions around the same timely topic of what it means to ‘host the stranger,’ this text enacts the hospitality it investigates, facilitating a hopeful and constructive dialogue between the world’s major religions.

“This is an important, open-hearted and useful collection of essays on the subject of hospitality, which often takes language as the first sign of its difficulty. The ghosts of Ricoeur and Derrida haunt the first half of the volume, and then it opens into Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu perspectives on the subject of welcome in which God is the long-awaited guest. Almost any one of these essays could be read by students in a number of disciplines; the volume opens doors to discussions about translation and uprootedness, liturgies and history. They are written with great clarity and ease by people who know their subject and want to share it. It is, as its title suggests, a cheering book.” – Fanny Howe, Chair, Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, Georgetown University

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Phenomenologies of the Stranger, Between Hostility and Hospitality, edited by Richard Kearney and Kascha Semonovitch, Fordham University Press, New York (2011)

What is strange? Or better, who is strange? When do we encounter the strange? We encounter strangers when we are not at home: when we are in a foreign land or a foreign part of our own land. From Freud to Lacan to Kristeva to Heidegger, the feeling of strangeness—das Unheimlichkeit—has marked our encounter with the other, even the other within our self. Most philosophical attempts to understand the role of the Stranger, human or transcendent, have been limited to standard epistemological problems of other minds, metaphysical substances, body/soul dualism and related issues of consciousness and cognition. This volume endeavors to take the question of hosting the stranger to the deeper level of embodied imagination and the senses (in the Greek sense of aisthesis).

This volume plays host to a number of encounters with the strange. It asks such questions as: How does the embodied imagination relate to the Stranger in terms of hospitality or hostility (given the common root of hostis as both host and enemy)? How do we distinguish between projections of fear or fascination, leading to either violence or welcome? How do humans “sense” the dimension of the strange and alien in different religions, arts, and cultures? How do the five physical senses relate to the spiritual senses, especially the famous “sixth” sense, as portals to an encounter with the Other? Is there a carnal perception of alterity, which would operate at an affective, prereflective, preconscious level? What exactly do “embodied imaginaries” of hospitality and hostility entail, and how do they operate in language, psychology, and social interrelations (including racism, xenophobia, and scapegoating)? And what, finally, are the topical implications of these questions for an ethics and practice of tolerance and peace?

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Featuring articles from Joshua Mills-Knutsen, Ian Marcus Corbin, Brian Treanor, Boyd Blundell, Elyse Purcell, Kascha Semonovitch, Fanny Howe, C Carlee A. Bradbury, Tyrus Clutter, Aaron Rosen, Rebecca Munro, Kathleen E. Urda, J. Matthew Boyleston, Ben Schachter, Tim Jackson, and Kim Paffenroth, with an introductory essay by the journal’s editor, Christopher Yates:

This introductory essay sets forth the meaning of hospitality as a matter of philosophical reflection ever wedded to concrete experience. Drawing upon approaches from recent work in phenomenology, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and hermeneutics, the event or scene of encounter with the stranger or other is positioned as a moment of profound interrogation and imagination. The introduction to this special section of articles on hospitality is set forth as an invitation to join in the renewal of this longstanding interdisciplinary issue for our time… (Christopher Yates)

On Hosting the Stranger, edited by Thomas Epstein, New Arcadia Review (2010)

On January 14, 2009 Richard Kearney of Boston College inaugurated a series of lectures at Boston College, several of which have been adapted for this collection, on the theme of ‘hospitality.’ They called their endeavor ‘The Guestbook Project.’2 As Professor Kearney mentioned on more than one occasion, this was a venture with risks, indeed a kind of Pascalian wager; for the guest, the stranger can bear the gift of death as easily as the gift of life. From its linguistic roots in hostis, which gestures simultaneously toward hostility and hospitality, to our contemporary world of suspicion, background checks, and war, hospitality, when offered to the stranger, to the other or the unknown, is frequently delivered (and sometimes received) only with a frown, or with strings attached, or behind a metal detector. Indeed in an important sense, on our planet seven billion strong, we have abandoned, at least ‘temporarily,’ the very project of hospitality. Instead of hosting the stranger we have opted for a different — if no less archaic — vision of community, a dark heaven of gated communities and nations, of dreams (and even realities) of electrified fences stretching hundreds and thousand of kilometers across boarders, out into space, from here to eternity.

So why try to be hospitable, why attempt even to discover or invent its possible language? Only to assuage our guilt? To essay the impossible? To alleviate our solitudes? The obscure and perhaps even dark reasons for this encounter matter less than the necessity of the activity. What is certain is that the other isn’t going away – she never left. As the essays, articles, poems, images and videos gathered here bear witness, the other, the foreigner, the stranger, is everywhere — both intriguing and repulsive, frequently at the same time. Why won’t the dame à la licorne once and for all reveal her meaning to us? What is she hiding? How can our religious traditions both command hospitality to the stranger and tolerate, and at times even encourage, the demonization (or as in the cases of the Book of Kings and the French town of Loudun, maim and kill) those who don’t (or even do) worship the same God that we do? Why does poetry, the pride of our tongue, insist on making our own language strange to us? Could it be that the otherness of our own selves is the most welcome, the most terrifying of strangers? While the materials gathered here don’t present final answers to these questions, they do attempt to create a ground on which they can be asked, face to face.

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Traversing the Heart: Journeys in Interreligious Imagination, edited by Richard Kearney and Eileen Rizo-Patron, Brill, Leiden (2011)

The key wager of Traversing the Heart – Journeys of the Inter-religious Imagination is that a spiritual imaginary operating at the level of metaphor, narrative, symbol and epiphany can traverse the borders of dogma and ideology and open genuine conversations between wisdom traditions. Like every hermeneutics of the heart, this journey begins to unfold in a concrete space and time: the interreligious conference at Bangalore in June 2007. While this collection does not claim to cover the religious traditions of all continents, its concluding essay on transculturation in Andean-Christian art highlights the importance of the North-South dialogue as a necessary supplement to the East-West one largely addressed in the book. As a call to future journeys and dialogue, this volume aims to communicate the one seminal lesson learned during the India conference: that in our third millennium, religions will be inter-religious or they will not be at peace.

“As I put down this marvelous book […] it seemed to me that this is a book that one reads over the years, during the various moods of one’s life. Its contents are vast and its heart, the guha that allows so many surprises and so many discoveries to grow in the hospitality of a welcoming, generous imagination, gives this book an endurance far beyond the circumstances that occasioned it. Its contents are unusually willing to surrender the professional armor that too often confuses academic rigor with rigor mortis.” – Jason Wirth, Seattle University.

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