Contested hospitality - Calling, powerlessness and law in Nordic migration practices

The earlier self-understanding in the Nordic countries as being hospitable, generous welfare societies is under pressure. The reception and immediate treatment of refugees have become an interface where ideologies of politics of the welfare state, ideologies of responsibility and views on the rights of a human being are contested.

In 2015 the number of refugees coming to Northern Europe immensely increased. Even though refugees’ applying for asylum is not a new phenomenon, the amplitude became larger and the mediated depictions became a practical and emotional challenge both for individual citizens as well as for society and the authorities.

The aim of the workshop is to present cases and core issues (Nordic and beyond) and connect cases and issues to the international discussion of hospitality. All senior participants have important publications and projects relevant to the migration field. 

Participants will give papers from the disciplines of law, philosophy, theology, and social science underlining the need for a strong interdisciplinary cooperation within this field.   One thing is the acute political dilemmas which have to be dealt with from one and every Nordic country, decisions makers and civil society. But beneath the operative political level, there is the level of ethics, morality, as well as complex and often ambiguous cultural values, and Law issues on this level trigger much of the tensions regarding migration.

The workshop will address how topics like the calling from the other, power and powerlessness, law and belonging impact the way we reflect and practice hospitality in the Nordic countries when faced with a critical humanitarian situation like the present one.

On a Nordic level there are strong Protestant hospitality traditions connected to taking care of the suffering neighbor. One could explain some of the strong positions in favor of migrant people from these traditions of calling.  The Nordic welfare states could be said to be a secular continuation of this kind of public caring. Still it seems like the cultural and ethical fundament for hospitality practices are no longer obvious.

Today hospitality has once again become an important concept within ethics, philosophy and theology. Coming out of old religious traditions, hospitality once was one of the important virtues expected to be performed among “good people». But due to the often patriarchal traditions connected to the concept of hospitality, it became an almost forgotten word in the 20th century. Influence from post-structural philosophy (Levinas, Agamben, Derrida), has again brought the idea of hospitality to regain its significance.

Today, however, the concept is discussed critically: Can one imagine a hospitality that avoids the host/guest binary? According to the British/Australian philosopher Sara Ahmed, this is a key issue in contemporary discussion on hospitality. Is the naïve interest of receiving refugees also a kind of shameless othering of refugees, creating asymmetrical power relations where the guest becomes indefinitely indebted to the host? Even if there still seems to be significant support for receiving refugees in the Nordic countries, the more critical question what it means to “receive” refugees might mean and imply still remains open for discussion.

The workshop is chaired by Trygve Wyller (TF) in cooperation with Arne Johan Vetlesen /(HF and Thomas Hylland Eriksen (SV)



June 6

0900-1000:  Trygve Wyller, professor, Faculty of Theology, UiO: A non-patronizing hospitality. Nordic traditions of calling in a new colonial age of migration

1000-1100: Cecilia Nahnfeldt, dr., Chair the Research Unit in the Church of Sweden, Uppsala: Migration as a Calling to Meet? Challenging Borders of Hospitality and Gender

1115-1215: Kaia Schultz Rønsdal, PhD, Faculty of Theology, UiO: Embodied Calling - Hospitality for the contested Otherbodies of the borderlands of Northern Norway [and Southern Texas]

1215-1315: Lunch

1315-1415:  Katja Franko, professor, Faculty of Law, Oslo

1430-1530:  Cathrine Moe Thorleifsson, postdoc, Faculty of Social Sciences, UiO: The borders of hospitality: selecting kin and enemies during times of protracted displacement

1545-1645:  Synnøve Bendixsen, postdoc, University of Bergen:   Welcoming refugees in an egalitarian society


June 7

0900-1000:  Arne Johan Vetlesen, professor, Faculty of Humanities, UiO: Grounds for being my brother`s keeper

1000-1100:  Hans Joachim Sander, professor, Faculty of Theology, University of Salzburg: Living Between All Powers. Refugees in a Church-Asylum in Saarbrücken – a Heterotopic Case-Study

1115-1215:  Stine Holte, post.doc. Faculty of Theology, UiO: The relation between ethics and law in light of the refugee situation.

1215-1315:  Lunch

1315-1415: Thomas Hylland Eriksen, professor, \Faculty of Social Sciences, UiO The ungrateful host: The double face of hospitality

1430-1600: Trygve Wyller (chair): Planning a UiO: Norden application

Publisert 2. juni 2016 14:11