A NALS / SIREL Conference

July 4th – 8th, 2016 at the University of Toulouse II – France

“Beyond the axiology of inter-estedness, beyond the appetite for being, beyond the restlessness of each for his restfulness, for his being-there, for his share in existing, beyond the concern for that which has so admirably been called Da-sein, the concern that decipher in the needs that money can satisfy – but as much in the possible cruelties of the ‘struggle for life’ – is not man also the astonishing possibility – exception to the edict of all modes of being! – of giving his place, the Da, to sacrifice himself for the other, to die for the stranger?” [1]

As the seventh year is the year of fallow land, this seventh year of the Toulouse International Conference tends to take place somewhere else than in the foothold in the land, somewhere else than in the autochthony, taking under consideration the landless, the undocumented, the migrant that each human being conceals, those that through their misery oblige to reconfigure the rules of living together.

Current affairs have (and for some time now) imposed the ethical problem of thinking about our responsibility in front of the call of the stranger. Even though this symposium is obviously influenced by recent events, it does not constitute simply one reaction. As a matter of fact, the gesture of Levinassian studies that we carry on tends to bring to light the ever-present risk of reducing the other to our own concepts. Hence it is not at all a matter of producing prescriptions.

Our proposal, studying the place of the stranger in Levinas’ thought, amounts rather to turn one’s self to that which the human has as most unsettling and somehow most deviant: his difference—which is at the same time unpredictable and inexhaustible.

The stranger appears in Levinas not as the stranger according to visible, identity, bureaucratic criteria (those strangers to this land, this culture, this language) but beyond visibility, his strangeness lays on that which is elusive in the very nature of proximity: there where the identity documents seem to say everything, they do not say anything at all. The Other can even speak my own language without my listening. The neighbor is at the same time the stranger, the ‘first comer’ [le premier venu], which I never know, and the familiar or relative, is the one who addresses himself to me personally. He is that one who is never there where we expect him to be and that one whose vulnerability reminds the subject of his own responsibility.

[1] “Sociality and Money”. Trans. F. Bouchetoux and C. Jones (2007)