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Hospitality vs Hatred of the Other: A Study of Welcoming versus Prejudiced Representations of Otherness in Britain and Poland

Final Report Summary - HOSPITABLE EUROPE (Hospitality vs Hatred of the Other: A Study of Welcoming versus Prejudiced Representations of Otherness in Britain and Poland)

The objectives of my project, "Hospitality vs Hatred of the Other: A Study of Welcoming versus Prejudiced Representations of Otherness in Britain and Poland", have been realised effectively across a variety of mediums, including through published material (two books). As it was a socially-engaged project, I have contributed to civil society through public events such as debates, travelling exhibitions and conferences, in Britain, Poland and internationally. I have used such events both to develop and disseminate my research.
The project’s aim was to research cultural initiatives welcoming the Other (hospitality) in contrast to prejudiced representations of the Other (hostility), in both Britain and Poland. I have examined representations of national, ethnic, atheist, and religious minorities, as well as LGBTQ, migrant, disability and economically excluded communities, in the two chosen counties and across Europe, with particular consideration for Central Eastern Europe. These Others, who lack visibility and subjectivity, are the targets of a number of prejudices, and the link between the lack of power and the lack visibility was a focal point of the project. The research examined social intolerances such as sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and xenophobia, among others, in iconography and ideology, and studied opposition to these fears, such as in activism, political philosophy and praxi, protest movements and socially engaged art. This was all done in the framework of a service to the philosophy and practice of democracy. In my books I specifically elaborated on the Arendtian actions of such movements as women’s, LGBTQ, refugee, Jewish and anti-racist communities.
The result was my analysis and postulating of a social, political and cultural philosophy of equality and diversity that considered the rights and participation of minorities. My focus on alterity, philosophy and visual culture was informed by reading and interpreting work from the Mahabharata, Homer, the Bible and the Koran, through Emmanuel Kant to Hannah Arendt, Emmanuel Levinas, Agnes Heller, Jacques Derrida, Claude Lefort, Maria Janion, Zygmunt Bauman, Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva, Renata Saclecl, Miloslav Petrusek, Ewa Majewska, Jan Sowa and Cezary Wodzinski. The resulting findings were made possible through close collaboration with the University of Brighton and my supervisor Dr Lara Perry, as well through interaction with others scholars who particularly trained me in Human Geography.
My idea culminated in the concept of hospit-Alterity, which I developed and promoted as a political philosophy of welcoming the Other through my two books and numerous papers and public events. Both Dream? Democracy! A Philosophy of Horror, Hope and Hospitality in Art and Action and The Stranger is Within Ourselves: Love according to Julia Kristeva, are books against xenophobia that foster hosting instead of hating the Other.
I went beyond the academic context to co-curate a travelling exhibition and accompanying events, open to the public. I also delivered public lectures and took part in socially-themed panels in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Los Angeles, Lublin, Krakow, Wroclaw and Trondheim. The panels were platforms of informing civil society to inform hospitable attitudes towards the other, such as “I Love the EU: Solidairty ist machbar”, which encouraged social solidarity; “Culture in Action”, aimed at mobilising citizens; and “Die Sexuelle Vieflalt und ihre Feinde in Osteuropa”, discussing sexual diversity in Eastern Europe. I also initiated and co-ordinated an event, “Lublin is not just for Poles”, promoting acceptance of migrants in Lublin (widely reported in the local media).
I gave a presentation to the Polish government, “Equality for Foreigners and Refugees”, on the treatment of migrants, and see further potential in transmitting the results of my research to other policy makers and civil society, as a means to change attitudes to the excluded groups, encouraging hosting them with greater hospitality. I have given interviews on Polish National TV, Warsaw Radio “Dla Ciebe” and Dutch National Radio, and had numerous letters to the editor published in the press by The Independent, The Morning Star and Poland’s leading newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza.
In academic circles, I have discussed and spread my research outcomes internationally, in print and through public speaking. I have been published by Palgrave, Macmillan and Routledge, and in such journals as Osteuropa, Open Citizenship and Teksty Drugie (published by the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw). I have delivered papers and invited lectures about hospit-Alterity at the following institutions: Humboldt University and Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin; New School for Social Research – Europe; Cultural Centre De Balie and University College in Amsterdam; University Paris VIII; University of Sussex and University of Brighton in Brighton; Adam Mickiewicz University, in Pozan; Jagiellonian University in Krakow; Goethe Institute in London; Beth Chayim Chadashim synagogue in Los Angeles; Local Government Centre and Labirynt Contemporary Art Centre in Lublin; Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder in Trondheim; and Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw.
The main outcomes of the project have been:
- The creation of the website , presenting my texts of the philosophy and practice of hospit-Alterity, considering hospitality and hostility in politics, activism and culture.
- The publication of Dream? Democracy! A Philosophy of Horror, Hope & Hospitality in Art and Action, in English-language, through Maria Curie-Sklodowska University Press in Lublin, 2014. With a focus on Central Eastern Europe and the philosophy of hospitality, the book explores problems of social intolerance and how art as activism, resistance to prejudice and help for the Other, as well as daily thinking and questioning, can drive new perceptions and realisations of democracy. It covers the explosive social changes developing in feminist, antifascist and queer art. I question how academics, as cultural operators and university staff, can change themselves into counter-culture dissidents for change. It is a book about feeling, thinking and acting in a socially responsible.
- The preparation of The Stranger is Within Ourselves: Love according to Julia Kristeva for publication in English language, with revised and enriched content. This book covers the concept of hospitality in the philosophy of Julia Kristeva, and is in the process of being released. It focuses on how Kristeva combines subjectivity, and more precisely interiority of intimacy, with a political project. She proceeds with the polyphony of the inner to the confederation of strangeness: from democratic intrasubjectivity to democratic, hospitable intersubjectivity.
- The co-organisation and execution of an exhibition and academic symposium, “Healing War Through Art”, held at the University of Brighton in May 2014. This explored how hospitality was put into practice through art and education in the historical case of the treatment of soldiers affected by war. Through photographs and drawings of disabled soldiers in the First World War learning arts and crafts at the Brighton School of Art, the project dealt with the traumatic impact of war and the role of art in the healing process. It resonated with contemporary debates about war, conflict and therapy through art and education. The exhibition will be repeated at the British Council Library in Lublin, Poland, opening in December 2014.
The fellowship has also significantly contributed towards the process of my habilitation.
Through all of my above activities and my research findings, the project’s objectives have been fully achieved.