Law Text Culture


This collection of articles was prompted by our concern with the ways in which the treatment of strangers is understood socially, culturally, politically and legally. The actions of successive Australian governments seem deliberately to avoid any engagement with a notion of hospitality as an obligation to assist those in need, to accommodate the visitor or the alien. The arrival of strangers is instead viewed as hostile – an infringement of national sovereignty, rather than an appeal for assistance. The common social response is a kind of panic that is not justified by the number of applicants, which is tiny by comparison with the demands on nation states elsewhere. This seems a deadly irony in a country that was founded as a nation-state by immigrants – and perhaps something of the hysteria aroused by the arrival of supplicants is a displaced recognition among non-Indigenous Australians that they are us; if we admit these strangers, perhaps they will ‘settle’ this country as violently as our forerunners did, but this time we will be the targets. Whether or not that is the case, it seemed that the time is ripe for an examination of the notion of hospitality.