Neither Close Nor Strange


in Phenomenologies of the Stranger

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234615
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240722 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Neither Close Nor Strange

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Can we apply Emmanuel Levinas's account of the Other to concrete situations? Though one might first associate Levinas's thought with the European genocide of the early twentieth century, this chapter looks at the Rwandan carnage of 1994. The horror of this massacre lies in part in that it was committed, quite literally, “face to face” between friends and family. These events force us to ask: how is it that neighbors and acquaintances could become the main perpetrators of mass murder? A phenomenology of the Stranger and the subject's hospitable or hostile response to one's own neighbor is shown to be a pressing ethico-political project. This chapter argues that Levinas's phenomenological descriptions of hospitality and the face of the stranger enable us to have a fuller appreciation of what is at stake in genocide. More specifically, it claims that the possibility of genocide lies in the refusal to acknowledge the Other either as a neighbor (close to us) or as a stranger (a guest).

Keywords: Emmanuel Levinas; hospitality; genocide; Rwanda; Other; neighbor; phenomenology; Stranger

Chapter.  6985 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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