Hermes Summer School: Hosts, Hospitals and Hospitalities

Lisbon | 20-24 June 2022


Hosts, Hospitals and Hospitalities: Notions, Images and Narratives of Hospitality in Literature, Culture and the Arts


Scholarly attention surrounding the notion of hospitality was, to a great extent, fueled by political discussions about illegal immigration in France in the 1990s, which gave origin to the seminal works by Jacques Derrida among other significant texts on this subject (Shérer 1993; Fassin 1997; Derrida 1999, 2000, 2001; Rosello 2001). Since then, the word “hospitality” has continued to attract critical attention all over the world, particularly in relation to debates about the legacies of colonialism (Rosello 2001), ideas of cosmopolitanism (Baker 2011), ethics and asylum legislation (Farrier 2011), new approaches to security culture (Clapp and Ridge 2016) and, obviously, in light of social phenomena such as the so-called “Refugee Crisis”.

As Derrida explains (following Benveniste), the latin word hostis suggested two opposite meanings: ‘host’ and ‘enemy’ (as in “hostile”), but as the philosopher notices there is a difference between the foreigner (xenos, étranger, stranger), with whom a pact of hospitality with mutual obligations exists, and the so-called barbarian, who is deprived of name and of rights.  In fact, in different historical, political, cultural and geographic contexts, the reactions and relations with the other have varied from acceptance and hospitality, to rejection and exclusion, as the opposition between the ‘Refugees Welcome’ movement and the increasing number of xenophobic attacks directed towards migrants and asylum seekers illustrates; a relation of attraction and rejection that could be linked with the concept of Unheimliche or the “uncanny”, in its multiple manifestation. Types of otherness have also been categorised and classified, determining the form of “hospitality” required or imposed; societies have, therefore, created a myriad of places to receive or accommodate these others according to their specific classifications: hotels, hospitals, hospices, refugee camps, detention centres, etc. Homelessness, on the other hand, represent a specific and extreme state of individual and collective exclusion.

The ethics of hospitality involves not only welcoming the familiar into the home, but calling the home into question. There is, therefore, another element to be considered in this discussion: the gender and sexual differentiation in the roles involved in a relation of hospitality, and in particular the role of the “hostess” (McNulty 2007). The concept of “feminine hospitality”, by describing qualities supposedly innate in women (like maternal love, empathy, or care), should also be brought into discussion, for it often produces a reductive understanding of femininity, supported by a gender ideology that makes woman no more than a welcoming vessel or a synecdoche of home. A new conception of home and homeliness is required, one that not only includes a new role distribution, but which deconstructs and moves beyond them and welcomes non-binary conceptions of hospitality.

It can be argued that the current pandemic Covid-19 has also changed the way in which we conceive some of these spaces, and even our own homes. Unexpectedly, some of us were compelled to imagine or confront images and ideas of ourselves as hostes in the etymological duality: we have all become potential hosts to an uninvited guest (a deadly virus) and, consequently, we have also become potential threats to ourselves and others. Our homes, spaces of domestic comfort and privacy, were subject to rules of sanitation or isolation, and have been – at least temporarily, for some – transformed into extensions of the hospital, while hospitals themselves were, tragically, unable to offer hospitality to some in need of it. Similarly, the current situation of environmental and climate crisis has also put into question our role as hosts (and also enemies) of our own planet, our relation with nature and the biological world, and also the concept of humanity itself, in connection and articulation with the idea of the post-human (Haraway 2016).

In what scholarly and artistic work is concerned, it is also worth mentioning that literature, culture, theory and the arts can be themselves spaces of hospitality where new or other forms, themes and genres can be applied, accepted, mixed or reconfigured. These processes can be considered key factors for the renewal of traditions and canons. In art, and literature in particular, the other is, again following Derrida, ‘that who asks questions’, that who can promote, through their work, processes of “defamiliarization” allowing new perspectives to emerge, fostering  new ways to see and imagine the world and allowing for productive hybridizations that give birth to new artistic processes and cultural products. Examples of defamiliarization and hybridisation, can however be rejected by the “official” canons, in the name of nationalistic or defensive conceptualizations of culture. More problematically, forms of defamiliarization and hybridization can also be objects of cultural appropriation.

In this Hermes summer school we aim to revisit notions, ideas and metaphors of (in)hospitality; we hope to explore the way images, ideas and metaphors of (in)hospitality have been approached by literary, cultural, theoretical or artistic texts. We also invite papers that consider the fictions and narratives, the cultural phenomena and artistic experiments associated with the meanings and terms of (in)hospitality, or that examine the place and topoi of homes, hospices and hospitals in literary and other artistic works. We would also like to reflect on how literature and the arts reacted or reflected the increasing sanitization, securitization, and clinicization of our “homely” spaces, exacerbated but not limited to the recent pandemic. Approaches to literature, culture and the arts themselves as spaces of hospitality are also of interest.

We welcome abstracts related but not limited to the areas listed below:

  • Narratives of hospitality and inhospitality from any historical period and geographic or cultural origin;
  • Hospitality as a topos for questions of ethics (an irrational side of our relation to the stranger – fear, anxiety, and hatred – or a nostalgic longing for a lost sense of social harmony) and its relation with the concept of “the uncanny”;
  • Literary and artistic representations of places/sites of hospitality (homes, hospices, hospitals etc), and of homelessness;
  • Images, metaphors and fictions of the pandemic and its effects and affects on hospitality and on the public/private division of space;
  • The relationship(s) between hospitality, security and sanitation;
  • Home and hospitality from the point of view of Gender and Queer Studies;
  • Race, class, sex and hospitality;
  • Environment, hospitality and the post-human;
  • Literature, culture and arts as a space of hospitality for new forms, genres, themes etc;
  • Defamiliarization and hybridization as creative techniques in literature and arts.



Each paper will be allotted 20 minutes. Please send your proposals, including an abstract (300 words) and a short bio note (150 words, with your name, email address, institutional affiliation, dissertation topic, and disciplinary anchoring), to by January 31, 2022.


Keynote Speakers

Inocência Mata (University of Lisbon)

Judith Still (University of Nottingham)

Tracy McNulty (Cornell University)


General Information

The Centre for Comparative Studies of the University of Lisbon is a member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of twelve doctoral schools in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The Consortium’s annual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities, and 24 PhD students (two per university). An intensive training workshop and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and interdisciplinary themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series.


Practical Information

Accommodation for delegates, speakers and student participants will be provided for five nights (20th June to 25th June 2022). A conference fee of EUR 325.00 per participant will include participation, accommodation, cultural activities, coffee breaks, lunch on four days, and conference dinner. Participants are requested to make their own travel arrangements.



Baker, Gideon. Politicising Ethics in International Relations: Cosmopolitanism as Hospitality. London/New York: Routledge, 2011.

Clapp, Jeffrey, and Emily Ridge, eds. Security and hospitality in literature and culture: Modern and contemporary perspectives. London/New York: Routledge, 2016.

Derrida, Jacques. Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. 1997. Trans. M. Naas and P.A. Brault. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

____. “Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility: A Dialogue with Jacques Derrida”, in Richard Kearney and Mark Dooley, eds, Questioning Ethics: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy. London/New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 65–83.

____. Of Hospitality. 1997. Trans. R. Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

____. Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond. 1997. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. London/New York: Routledge, 2000.

___. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. 1997. Trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes. London/New York: Routledge, 2001.

____. “Hostipitality”, in Barry Stocker, ed. translator, Jacques Derrida: Basic Writings. London: Routledge, 2007, pp. 235-264.

Farrier, David. Postcolonial Asylum: Seeking Sanctuary Before the Law. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011.

Fassin, Didier, Alain Morice, and Catherine Quiminal, eds. Les Lois de l’Inhospitalité: Les Lois politiques de l’immigration à l’épreuve des sans papiers. Paris: La découverte, 1997.

Haraway, Donna. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

McNulty, Tracy. The Hostess. Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity. Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

Rosello, Mireille. Postcolonial Hospitality: The Immigrant as Guest. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Shérer, René. Zeus Hospitalier: Éloge de L´hospitalié. Paris: Armand Colin, 1993.


Organising Committee

Catarina Nunes de Almeida

Santiago Pérez Isasi

Susana Araújo

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