Inhuman Nature Chapter 8- Extending Hospitality


Clark closes Inhuman Nature with a look at hospitality while keeping a close eye on the history of the shapers of our given world. Those who have come before have shaped our world through struggles with nature. A long standing cycle of trial and error has shaped the ground beneath our feet in order that we may live a civilized life. Cruikshank poetically captures this sentiment with her notion of “layered memories…. Accumulated through centuries of oral tradition”. Clark points out that a “we” is unthinkable without the known and unknown labors of those who came before us to rope in and work with the natural earthly upheavals.

It is with this human history in mind that Clark frames our responsibilities to ourselves, others and the world as a whole. He draws on Kant’s Towards Perpetual Peace and his call to creating global hospitality laws to ensure safe movement against borders. These arbitrary manmade borders in themselves create an injustice to those who have preceded us. They structurally exclude sections of humanity wanting to belong while simultaneously confine others within them who do not. Much like the Crimean controversy of those existing in a border while identifying with another culture, man -made divides create social chaffing. These borders become even more arbitrary when one considers the ability of earth systems to ignore and obliterate our prescribed lines.

Clark presents many perspectives on this conflict between manmade borders and hospitality. He highlights Sach’s call to action to create civilizations that can accommodate twice as many people while retaining sustainability. It is through this cooperation of man -made systems with the boundaries and instability of the land we tread on that we start to envision a harmonious existence. Clark cites the Haiti disaster as an example of barriers to Sachs vision. Bush’s securities against Haitians (and many others) fleeing to the U.S. amidst the upheaval of their land encapsulates the injustice of man- made borders in the face of natural thresholds. The complex nature of injustice is a focus of Latour’s who questions how we might manage a world with such “heterogeneous others” while retaining justice for all, while at the same time including the inclination towards upheaval.

The idea of thresholds is a pertinent one to consider in this realm. It is Derrida’s assertion that hospitality is acted upon at these thresholds, but physical and nonphysical. It is precisely at moments of disruption of ones known world that hospitality is most needed. As we saw with the tsunami and hurricane Katrina, often these turning points create a bloom of hospitality as we recognize that the world too has thresholds, regardless of our human ones.

Clark leaves off in a manner not unlike a screenwriter with a sequel in mind- “Improbably, we have made it this far, across unfathomable ruptures and through innumerable thresholds. Improbably, we may make it over the next tipping point”( p 219) He acknowledges the turmoil yet to come, with one eye turned to the past, both human and non-human. Only time will tell us how this discourse will turn out.