Manu Bazzano engages with identity, otherness and ethics in a wide-ranging discussion of hospitality, exploring various social and political implications.
Identity is examined primarily through the experience of Buddhist meditation, understood as phenomenological enquiry, as an exploration aimed at clarifying the non-substantiality of the self, the fluid nature of identity, and the contingent nature of existence. Otherness is discussed using insights from philosophy and psychology.
In todays world of globalised capitalism there is the spectre of the stranger, the migrant, the asylum seeker.
If the I comes fully into being when relating to the other, the citizen can only become a true citizen when he/she responds adequately to the presence of the non-citizen.
A self which does not respond to the other is isolated. And a citizen who fails to respond, or worse demonises non-citizens, can he still be called a citizen?
The book retraces the origins of collective forms of malaise such as fanatical patriotism and xenophobia, both legacies of monotheism -- the cult of an exclusivist deity. It looks critically at the notions of covenant, territory, kinship and nation, and formulates the view of "nation-state" as expansion of the ego (Buber) and as imagined community.
Symbolic and aesthetic dimensions provide a necessary humanistic perspective -- the context of demands imposed by others and the phenomenological means to accommodate frames of reference of different religious, philosophical and scientific systems. And herein the author provides a revealing alternative -- poetry -- which promotes the opening up of new vistas, emancipation and radical change: Holderlin spoke of "living poetically on the earth".
Throughout, the author engages with philosophy/religion from antiquity till today, and from East to West, thus providing an historic overview of how hospitality goes to the core of psychological well-being.