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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strangers at the gate : hospitality in a time of terror Balfour, Lindsay Anne


My dissertation offers a reading of hospitality that suggests the encounter with strangers is at the core of cultural production and culture itself in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. My argument for the necessity of hospitality after 9/11 holds in tension the notion of a Law of hospitality – a welcome to whoever or whatever will arrive, however unexpected and however violently – and an attentiveness to a discourse of unconditional welcome that is challenged and even made unbearable by the particular conditions of social and cultural life in a time of terror. I have selected works of cultural memory, film, art and literature that show the breadth of hospitality’s influence across a variety of cultural forms but that offer a depth of insight, historical specificity, and theoretical intensity that only a product created in the aftermath of 9/11 allows. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City is, I argue, best understood as an institution defined by the question of hospitality, particularly as hospitality is engaged or disavowed through an experience with loss. Moreover, I consider how hospitality might function in consideration of the violence perpetuated against bodies marked by discourses of race, gender, and sexuality, as is the case in the 2011 film, Zero Dark Thirty and separately explore how alternative modes of hospitality are enabled by the fluid and dynamic space of the street and the urban art found there. Examining Don DeLillo's 2007 novel Falling Man, I argue for a sustained engagement with hospitality through the figure of organic shrapnel, a metaphor that suggests the possibility of being literally and figuratively embedded by another. The purpose of this project is not to furnish an ideal practice of program of hospitality; rather, it is to point out the diverse and even devastating ways that hospitality appears in ways that remind us that, if hospitality as we understand it is failing, it matters more than ever how we deploy it.

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