Law Text Culture


This essay takes as its point of departure a pair of perennial questions in western ethics: How might we know "the stranger"? What dictates proper behavior toward him or her? (Ogletree 1985) These ethical questions are also essential questions of culture, economics, law and diplomacy. They have inspired empathetic philosophical reflections, most notably in the work of Emmanuel Levinas (1969, 1998), theoretical work on difference, language, and subjectivity (Derrida 1998; Kristeva 1988), and literary explorations of human difference and alienation, most famously in Camus's The Stranger. ([1946] 1988; see also Stamelman on Jabes 1993) In Europe and North America, the treatment of the stranger who seeks refuge from political, cultural or sexual violence has surely been one of the signal ethical issues in immigration policy and foreign relations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. (Sassen 1999: 98-158)