No-Man! I’ll eat thee last of all thy friends;
And this is that in which so amends
I vow’d to thy deservings. Thus shall be
My hospitable gift made good to thee.

– Polyphemus to Ulysses, Od. 9. 505–08

I feel like a host when I am filming

– Lars Von Trier (1)

Jacques Derrida, it would seem, does not often read fairytales – or, at least, fairytales have rarely found welcome as “privileged ‘examples’” (2), if there are any, in Derrida’s work. An obvious exception, perhaps, is “Le facteur de la vérité” (3) in which Derrida cites, as an illustration of the way in which Lacan uses Poe, Freud’s citation of Anderson’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (4) – a staging of intertextual hospitality in which one text welcomes or hosts another. Illustrating hospitality through an example of the illustrative capacity of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is apt, given that even rarer than a fairytale in Derrida is a fairytale in any tradition that does not depict hospitality or “place [it] on stage” (5). More often than not, the protagonist must undertake a journey along unfamiliar paths and rely on the hospitality of others. Of course, there is always the possibility that the generous host is in fact a monster, who offers hospitality only to make a meal of the guest. Hänsel and Grethel, for example, quickly discover that the generous old woman who welcomes them into her gingerbread house is in reality a witch; that the hospitality offered them is conditional on their becoming a meal for their host. In what follows I hope to illustrate further the monstrous possibilities of hospitality through a Derridean reading of Lars Von Trier’s film Dogville (2003). (6)

Derrida addresses the monstrous possibilities of hospitality in his analysis of Immanuel Kant’s “To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch.” (7) “To Perpetual Peace” is a list of conditions and limitations necessary for the institution of peace: “the first – indeed the only – concern of Kant is to define limitations and conditions.” (8) Derrida’s reading of Kant focuses particularly on the third definitive article: “Cosmopolitan right shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality.” (9) If, in the cosmopolis, the world citizen has a right to non-aggression (eternal peace), that right is conditioned by the laws of universal hospitality. “In this context,” Kant writes, “hospitality (hospitableness) means the right of an alien not to be treated as an enemy upon his arrival in another country. If it can be done without destroying him, he may be turned away; but as long as he behaves peaceably he cannot be treated as an enemy.” (10) Hospitality is essentially a pact between parties, a promise of non-hostility without reservation. As a form of exchange, Kant’s hospitality is always a kind of economy.

The right to hospitality, “the right to visit […] belongs to all men by virtue of their common ownership of the earth’s surface” (11): since the earth’s surface is finite, its inhabitants must necessarily tolerate each other. (12) No single human being – or State – has “a greater right to any region of the earth than anyone else” (13). The right to hospitality, to peaceable visitation, association and passage must be, therefore, universal; it appears that hospitality is a natural right.

As a natural right, then, hospitality must be universal and extended to all; and if hospitality is naturally universal, the moment it is limited, or conditioned, it ceases to be hospitality. (14) But, as the title for his third article suggests, Kant’s hospitality, for all its generosity, “is in fact limited by a great number of conditions”:

universal hospitality is here only juridical and political; it grants only the right of temporary sojourn and not the right of residence; it concerns only the citizens of States; and, in spite of its institutional character, it is founded on a natural right, the common possession of the round and finite surface of the earth, across which humans cannot spread ad infinitum. The realization of this natural right, and thus of universal hospitality, is referred to a cosmopolitical constitution that the human species can only approach indefinitely. (15)

Hospitality is juridical and political in the sense that, as a right, it is made possible, or guaranteed, by “an agreement between states” (16) – that is, by supra-national law. In other words, hospitality is not a natural right, but a legal right founded on the universal right of possession of the earth. (17) Hospitality cannot apply to any individual who does not fall under the law; an individual must be a citizen of a State to have a right to hospitality. (18) Women (citizenship is an exclusively male privilege in Kant (19)), barbarians and animals have no right to hospitality, although they certainly inhabit the earth. Ghosts, monsters, gods and machines, are also excluded. (20)

Kant’s hospitality is also temporal: the right to visit permanently must be requested (21) and is never automatic. The guest can only stay so long as he “behaves peaceably” (22) or so long as it suits the host. And the visitor does not even have to be welcomed to begin with; so long as it can be done without killing him or causing his death, “he can be turned away” (23). Hospitality seems designed to protect the rights of the host, while the potential guest has no guaranteed right to hospitality at all, but only the right to request it and not be harmed if rejected. Kant’s hospitality can hardly be called universal or unlimited.

Universal hospitality is strictly juridico-political. “To Perpetual Peace” sets out the conditions necessary to implement hospitality (a pact of non-hostility), but also limits hospitality by those same conditions:

[t]he law and cosmopolitics of hospitality that he [Kant] proposes […] is a set of rules and contracts, an interstate conditionality that limits, against the backdrop of natural law reinterpreted within a Christian horizon, the very hospitality it guarantees. (24)

The same conditions make hospitality both possible and impossible: that is, conditional hospitality is (im)possible.

If hospitality is impossible because it is conditioned, it is doubly impossible because its conditions conceal a certain violence. Kant is mainly concerned with establishing the conditions under which the visitor (the other) has a right to hospitality and the limitations of that right. It seems natural to offer hospitality on the condition that the guest never offer hostility to the host; that the guest always remember that, while he may make himself at home, he is not truly at home. There are certain customs well established in the host’s home: should the guest be expected to abide by them, or at least respect them? Must the guest also speak the host’s language: how can the host welcome the guest without communication? (25) And if citizenship qualifies one to receive hospitality, surely the guest may be expected to give her name on arrival, to identify herself to her host? (26)

These rites of reception condition the welcome: at the very worst, the visitor is discovered to be outside the law and without the right to hospitality; at the very least, hospitality granted, his singularity is effaced. (27) The guest is effectively possessed or thematized. There is “no welcome of the other as other” (28) if the guest must conform to the host’s will. The conditional welcome is thus, in a certain sense, violent. Hent de Vries summarizes Levinas: “violence can be found in whatever narcissistic strategy the self adopts to capture, thematize, reduce, use, and thus annul or annihilate the other.” (29) Thus Derrida’s argument that the welcome always “seeks passage through the violence of the host” (30).

In order to welcome the other as other, to move beyond conditional hospitality, Derrida postulates a “radical” hospitality. The term “radical” carries two almost opposing senses: radical in the sense of an “original, primary” (OED) hospitality – “real” hospitality – but also a “progressive, unorthodox, or revolutionary” (OED) movement beyond conditional hospitality. (31) Derrida’s old/new hospitality is an unconditional one which he finds at work in Levinas’ treatment of the welcome in Totality and Infinity and Otherwise Than Being. (32) I do not intend to deal directly with unconditional hospitality in this article, although unconditional and conditional “forms” of hospitality can never be separated. Radical hospitality, or welcoming the other as infinitely other, is every bit as (im)possible as conditional hospitality; indeed, “conditional hospitality is the condition of im-possibility of unconditional hospitality and vice versa”. (33) A continual negotiation between conditional and unconditional welcome will be implicit in what follows, but not my focus. My intention is to give an illustration of, or put on stage, the limitations and monstrous possibilities of Kant’s universal hospitality. These monstrous possibilities are illustrated most vividly in Lars Von Trier’s recent filmic fairytale, Dogville.


Dogville is a fascinating combination of theatre, film and visualized literature. The entire film is performed on a single sound stage, houses and streets marked only by chalk lines. There are no walls, no doors to be seen, although the performers open and close invisible doors with accompanying sound effects. The interiority of home is a reality in Dogville (the town, the film), but a reality by which the camera and audience are not confined. The camera passes through all homes, not welcomed and yet not unwelcome – simply unknown. This staged theatricality allows von Trier to eliminate the distinctions between public and private, inside and outside – if only for the viewer of Dogville. (34) It is an attempt, perhaps, to bring the intimacy of theatre to film, but also a moment which opens more than a few questions regarding the intimacy and hospitality a film offers its viewer.

Von Trier is not content to welcome just theatre to Dogville: his film also hosts a form of narrative literature. Told in nine chapters and a prologue (35), including title cards which announce the events of the following chapter (“I had Winnie the Pooh more in mind. At the beginning of a chapter it might say ‘Pooh and Piglet go hunting and capture a Tessla’ or something else that fires the imagination”) (36), the story is guided by John Hurt’s omniscient, if cynical, narration. The prologue opens in typical fairytale or fable mode: “This”, begins the narrator, “is the sad tale of the township of Dogville” (Prologue). John Hurt’s voice is perhaps already familiar to some as the eponymous narrator in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, and from the opening moments of Dogville the storyteller announces that this is a fairytale – with a lesson to be learnt.

Von Trier’s three films prior to Dogville form a loose fairytale anthology, the so called “Golden Heart Trilogy”: Breaking the Waves (1996), Idioterne (The Idiots) (1998), and Dancer in the Dark (2000) act as explorations in “the nature of female goodness” (37). Each of these films, and Dogville in part, finds its inspiration in the Marquis de Sade’s Justine and the children’s fairytale Guld Hjerte (Golden Heart). Guld Hjerte, von Trier recalls, is about

a little girl who goes out into the woods with some breadcrumbs in her apron and on her way she gives away both her food and her clothes. And when the rabbit or the squirrel tells her that now she doesn’t have a skirt on, her answer is every time: “I’ll be alright.” (38)

Along similar lines, in Sade’s fairytale, Justine is “repeatedly exploited, raped, or whipped by everyone she meets” (39), all the time remaining unshaken in her belief in human goodness and “divine justice” (40): God will punish the wicked and “Virtue may be compensated by Heaven’s most dazzling rewards.” (41) The Golden Heart trilogy explores the naïveté and ultimately self-destructive results of the unconditional, Christlike forgiveness of women like Justine. And just as Justine is struck down by lightning at the end of all she endures – “the lightning entered her right breast, found the heart, and after having consumed her chest and face, burst out through her belly” (42) – von Trier’s golden hearted heroines always end unfortunately.


This same fairytale notion, that all will be well if one endures wickedness in virtue, informs Dogville’s narrative until its final climatic reversal. Grace (Nicole Kidman) is a fugitive, fleeing from gangsters in nearby Georgetown. Appearing suddenly one evening in Dogville, she first encounters Thomas Edison, Jr (Paul Bettany), the town’s self-appointed moral philosopher. Tom is a writer, or at least has aspirations, and in order to postpone any attempt to begin has developed a series of “meetings on moral rearmament” (Prologue). The townsfolk feel for the most part that they “could do without [Tom’s] lectures” (Prologue) and think his energies misplaced. Tom’s childhood friend Bill Henson (Jeremy Davies), for example, has trouble grasping “this meeting business […] What if they’re fine just the way they are?”, he asks (Prologue). Insisting on a maieutic mode of teaching opposed to Levinas’ “magisterial teaching in the figure of the welcome” (43), Tom claims that he only “refresh[es] folks’ memories by way of illustration” (Prologue). The people of Dogville, and people in general, have forgotten how to receive, how to welcome and offer hospitality openly. Tom, it would appear, subscribes to the Pauline notion of brotherhood, of welcoming all strangers as “fellow-citizens […] and of the household of God” (44). Dogville and the nation as a whole have, it would seem, completely disregarded St Paul’s cosmopolitan fraternity. If Tom’s accusations seem to the town unfounded, though, it is because he lacks an illustration, an example of Dogville’s inhospitality: “See, if the people of Dogville have a problem with acceptance, what they really need is something for them to accept; a gift” (Prologue). And Grace’s arrival provides him with the perfect opportunity to stage and illustrate this problem.

Grace had not chosen to visit Dogville, but Tom feels “right away that she belonged” (Ch. 1) – belongs to him in the sense that Grace had made a gift of herself, almost unconditionally: “She had elected to give herself up to him at random, as – yes – a gift. Generous, thought Tom. Very generous.” (Ch. 1)

Tom presents his lecture to Dogville, keeping Grace concealed for his final hand. His words, though, find very little welcome from his audience: surely Dogville is hospitable, as open as any other town? “The whole country would be better served with a greater attitude of openness and acceptance”, argues Tom.

“Since nobody seems to want to admit there’s a problem – let me illustrate. Now I’m not going to use something that already happened. I’m going to use something that’s just about to happen.” (Ch. 1)

Tom produces Grace, his illustrative gift.

But Tom’s idea of illustration deserves some analysis: is not Tom proposing to illustrate, not the solution to a problem, but the problem itself? Hospitality, in Tom’s mind, is not offered freely or openly, and the people of Dogville do not know how to receive because they cannot welcome without condition. Dogville will not admit to this hesitation and it is precisely this resistance to hospitality that Tom proposes to demonstrate by presenting Grace as a potential guest, if only to prove that she will be violated by Dogville in the end. Tom wants to stage the drama of hospitality as it goes wrong.

Tom’s illustration might be thought of as a fable of sorts. A fable’s sole purpose is to illustrate a moral point, to persuade the reader of the correct mode of behaviour. In order to do so, it must “present itself as an address or a call to the other” (45). In other words, the fable calls on the reader – calls on “you” – to identify with its characters and to take the place of the crow or the fox: mutato nomine, de te fabula narrator. (46) But it is in this address that the fable’s paradox lies: the fable calls on the reader to identify with and follow the example of its animal protagonists in order to teach the reader not to follow such examples. That is, a fable always teaches through the bad example, and the worst example is, in a strange way, exemplary. (47) Tom plans to follow the same structure in his illustration of hospitality and to show the people of Dogville a bad example of hospitality; but by having the town participate directly in his fable rather than identifying with characters in a text, Tom forces both Dogville and Grace to share in the violent possibilities of hospitality.

Immediately, the hospitality offered Grace is conditioned: no one welcomes the prospect of giving “sanctuary to a refugee” (Ch. 1), especially one running from gangsters. “I don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy”, says Grace (Ch. 1), as though her presence is a threat, as though the arrival of the other always jeopardises the “at home” of the host. In order to offset the risks involved, Thomas Edison, Sr, the town’s self-styled patriarch, wonders if there isn’t some way “we wouldn’t doubt the young lady’s words; some way to know her. Then I think we’d all ignore the risks.” (Ch. 1) In other words, what can Grace offer to make the apparent risk of hospitality worth taking? In the end, it is decided that Grace will be given two weeks to prove that she is worthy of Dogville’s hospitality. Grace is concerned, however, that she has nothing to offer them in return. “Do you mind physical labour?”, Tom asks. “Dogville offered you two weeks: now you offer them.” (Ch. 1)

Grace’s attempts to offer her services to Dogville are initially met by rejection: “There really isn’t anything we need doing.” (Ch. 2) Eventually, however, with Tom’s ever helpful guidance, she is soon performing the very tasks that “didn’t need doing” (Ch. 2), things normally left undone because less important. The townspeople might wonder if she is truly offering anything in return for their generosity.


The “counterbalance [and] quid pro quo” (Ch. 5) Grace offers Dogville for their hospitality rapidly evolves into increasingly abusive and violent tasks as the perceived risk of having Grace in their town increases. Expected to work longer and longer hours, she soon finds herself the victim of sexual abuse. She is raped first by Chuck (Stellan Skarsgard). Returning from work in the apple orchard and finding Grace babysitting his children, Chuck reveals that the police and the FBI have arrived, questioning the townspeople and searching for the apparently dangerous fugitive, Grace. “What did you tell them?”, asks Grace. “Well, I thought I’d seen something in the woods recently: an item of clothing, to be exact.” (Ch. 6) True, Chuck only possesses a lost hat of Tom’s, but he could just as easily take Grace’s monogrammed scarf to the police. “I wouldn’t try to run”, he says, “I wouldn’t try to holler neither.” (Ch. 6) Chuck makes a kind of exchange with Grace: as repayment for not revealing her to “the Laws” (Ch. 6) and for his continuing hospitality, Grace is violently used and raped by her host.

Before long, Grace is satisfying the “sexual needs” (Ch. 8) of all the men in town as a condition of hospitality and Dogville has come to know Grace as well as Tom’s father had hoped. Her chores continue without abatement and, for her own protection and the town’s, to prevent the end of Dogville’s hospitality as it were, she is chained by the neck to the heavy fly-wheel from the old mill and fitted with a belled collar. Hardly a punishment, the chain is thought to be in everyone’s best interest – especially hers. By keeping her in Dogville, could it not be argued that the Kantian demand on the host to protect the life of the guest is being fulfilled? (48) Not if, like Ulysses trapped in Polyphemus’s cave, Grace is held only to be consumed.

Kant would argue that sexually and physically abusing Grace is a kind of cannibalism: “carnal enjoyment”, he writes,

is cannibalistic in principle (even if not always in effect). Whether something is consumed by mouth and teeth, or whether the woman is consumed by pregnancy […] or the man by the exhaustion of his sexual capacity from the woman’s frequent demands on it, the difference is merely in the manner of enjoyment. In this sort of use by each of the sexual organs of the other, each is actually a consumable thing (res fungibilis) with respect to the other. (49)

Grace, I would argue, has become for Dogville a “consumable thing”. To use Grace, sexually or otherwise, is to consume her, to enjoy her as property or object – to use her completely, as it were, until nothing remains. And it is precisely the conditions of hospitality which have allowed Grace to be so monstrously consumed.

I have shown that the conditions of hospitality are essential to protect the host from the absolute other and to make hospitality possible at all: if the guest overwhelms the host in its unconditional arrival, the very nature of hospitality, the guest/host relationship, is effaced. The citizens of Dogville have attempted to protect themselves against the otherness of Grace, by conditioning the hospitality offered to her and using her to the point of consuming her whole. Dogville’s case is perhaps an extreme version of the “compensatory relationship” Emile Benveniste finds informing hospitality (50), but is nevertheless an illustration of the violence that haunts any conditional welcome: under the conditions of hospitality the guest is always a kind of captive, reduced to the host’s habits and traditions. To a smaller or greater degree, the singularity of the guest is effaced or absorbed by the violent and thematizing conditions of hospitality. The fairytale monster who lies in wait, offering hospitality only to consume the guest is, I would argue, the host par excellence: if the welcome must “seek its passage through the violence of the host” (51), then Dogville, in all its monstrosity, plays the host perfectly.

It must be noted that Grace responds to all forms of abuse with forgiveness and mercy – with grace even. As her name suggests, Grace embodies the unconditional and the infinite. If grace is precisely the infinite gift – that is, immeasurable – there can be no adequate exchange or response: grace/Grace can only be abused. The hospitable response to the infinite is to attempt to pull it into the finite, to commit the violence of the host. In this sense, conditional hospitality might be called the unforgivable sin: to protect the ipseity of the host and to protect the possibility of hospitality, the other’s absolute otherness cannot be forgiven but, rather, effaced.

Grace’s response (the graceful response) to this unforgiving, unforgivable hospitality can only be continued forgiveness: forgiveness “must” be unconditional, “granted to the guilty as guilty(52), if it is to be forgiveness at all. In a way, only the unforgivable is at all forgivable. While Dogville’s response to Grace is necessarily abusive, she, as the embodiment of grace, must respond to increasing abuse with unending forgiveness.

In spite of this forgiveness – because of it, even – Grace becomes too great a risk for Dogville to maintain. It is Tom who places the call to the gangsters: Grace helps him discover his own doubts regarding his moral purity and suggests that even he has been tempted to use her as violently as the rest of the town. When she forgives him for what is essentially his nature, Tom, overwhelmed, also begins to see Grace as a risk (Ch. 8). Dogville places itself completely at the gangster’s disposal and provides them with a fine welcome: “Dogville might be off the beaten track, but was hospitable nonetheless.” (Ch. 9)

Grace is forced into the Big Man’s car: “You need to justify your actions before you shoot us? […] That could be interpreted as weakness, Daddy.” (Ch. 9) Her father’s only motivation for visiting Dogville, he claims, is to tell her that she is arrogant – arrogant because she forgives others by blaming circumstances:

BIG MAN: A deprived childhood and a homicide really isn’t necessarily a homicide, right? The only thing you can blame is circumstances. Rapists and murderers may be the victims, according to you, but I – I call them dogs; and if they’re lapping up their own vomit, the only way to stop them is with the lash.

GRACE: But dogs only obey their own nature, so why shouldn’t we forgive them

BIG MAN: Dogs can be taught many useful things, but not if we forgive them every time we obey their own nature. (Ch. 9)


Grace’s forgiveness is an acceptance of the other as wholly other. The self can never know what is in the other’s mind, can never know his or her secret: we must “forgive the tout autre whose secret we do not know” (53) if the other is to remain absolutely other. Thus to welcome the other is also to welcome the other in forgiveness, to forgive the other’s absolute otherness – the very thing Dogville, and all hosts, cannot do. To forgive is also to allow the other to consume, as Grace is consumed by her host.

Grace’s chat with her father reveals the tension in both the relationship of forgiveness and the relationship of hospitality. On one hand, both relationships must be conditional: forgiveness and hospitality can only be granted in exchange for the guest’s repentance, the realignment of the other’s will with the will of the host, or Lord of Hosts. (54) Conditions protect the master of the house from the dog’s nature (55), but it is also the conditional that makes the host monstrous.

On the other hand, forgiveness and hospitality must be unconditional. If there is to be any hospitality at all, the guest must be allowed to arrive, wholly guilty of otherness and as the monstrously infinite guest who always threatens to consume the host. In forgiveness and hospitality, the two poles of the conditional and the unconditional are “irreconcilable but indissociable(56).

This complex relationship of the conditional and unconditional suggests that there is never a choice between modes of hospitality or forgiveness, that there is always a constant tension and negotiation between the two collapsible poles. If this is the case, is Grace’s continual forgiveness truly unconditional? Could not Grace’s infinite forgiveness of Dogville’s conditional hospitality – her forgiveness of the “guilty as guilty(57) or the host as host – also be considered a form of thematizing violence? By forgiving without hesitation, Grace in fact captures Dogville, defines its citizens as incapable of being otherwise – as something beneath her. It is this kind of forgiveness that her father finds particularly arrogant:

GRACE: So I’m arrogant; I’m arrogant because I forgive people?

BIG MAN: My God! Can’t you see how condescending you are when you say that? You have this preconceived notion that nobody – listen – nobody can possibly attain the same high ethical standards as you, so you exonerate them. I cannot – I cannot think of anything more arrogant than that. You my child, my dear child, forgive others with excuses that you would never in the world permit for yourself. (Ch. 9)

To forgive the guilty as guilty, to accept the host in its absolute monstrosity, is to define it as precisely that – as monstrous. Grace, in a sense, makes of Dogville a domesticated monster, a thing that she possess, controls – consumes even – because she has the power of forgiveness and the “right of grace(58). It is as though Grace is a law beyond the conditional laws of hospitality and forgiveness; she is an absolute monarch whose right to pardon is beyond the law. (59) Her infinite grace, in fact, consumes the town of Dogville: Grace’s choice to have the town massacred, to consume it by fire, is a natural extension of the right of grace and the right of Grace.

Grace confronts Tom before executing him herself. And although Tom is afraid, he has not forgotten what he set out to illustrate from the beginning:

Although using people isn’t very charming, I think you’d have to agree that this specific illustration has surpassed all expectations. It says so much about being human. It’s been painful; but I think you’ll also have to agree, it’s been edifying. Wouldn’t you say? (Ch. 9)

Dogville did indeed have a problem receiving unconditionally and could only offer hospitality conditionally, and therefore monstrously. Grace, his illustrative gift, who continually gave herself and forgave her host, was consumed utterly by Dogville. A successful staging of the violence of the host indeed.

But then Tom did not take into account the violence inherent in both the conditional and unconditional. The same moment in which Dogville, the monstrous host, consumed Grace, is also the same moment which allows Grace to devour Dogville. It would appear that, in the relationship of hospitality, both the guest and the host have the potential to overwhelm, efface, or consume the other; but simultaneously, to gain the position of dominance within that relationship is also to suffer the same violent possibilities of hospitality. Hospitality, then, is the experience, or the possibility, of impossibility: there, were it is impossible, there is hospitality.

In this article I have dealt only with Dogville’s narrative of hospitality. Indeed, it might be argued that the question of hospitality, especially within Derrida’s project, is entirely one of narrative and drama, of hospitality as it goes wrong, its climax and resolution – if there is such a thing. What I have left open, and alluded to earlier, is a question of “extra-textual” hospitality, or the hospitable relationship between a film and its viewer (or between reader and novel, as the case may be). In other words, what kind of welcome does film offer to its viewer? Is the viewer welcomed unconditionally within the film world – especially in a film like Dogville in which walls, the traditional borders and boundaries of hospitality, are completely transparent – or do (violent) limits apply? How, if at all, does the viewer overwhelm the hosting film and is watching a movie, therefore, an inherently violent act? These questions move towards what might be considered an ethics of watching film in which a constant negotiation between the conditional and unconditional is engaged – questions I hope to take up again, but leave here, as the question of hospitality must be left, entirely open.


  1. Sami Saif, director, Dogville Confessions (Zentropa, 2003).
  2. Jacques Derrida, Positions, translated by Alan Bass, (London: Continuum, 2002), p. 5.
  3. Jacques Derrida, “Le facteur de la vérité”, in The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, translated by Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 411–96.
  4. Ibid, p. 416.
  5. Derrida, “Le facteur de la vérité”, op. cit., p. 419.
  6. Lars Von Trier, director, The Film “DOGVILLE” as Told in Nine Chapters and a Prologue, screenplay by Lars von Trier, performed by Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, James Caan (Zentropa, 2003). Two cuts of the film exist: the original cut and a second (director approved) cut, shorter by about half an hour, released to American, Australian, and other markets. I have followed the uncut version of the film here.
  7. Immanuel Kant, “To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”, translated by Ted Humphrey, in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays on Politics, History, and Morals, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), pp. 106–43.
  8. Derrida, Adieu, pp. 89–90.
  9. Kant, “To Perpetual Peace”, p. 118, emphasis original.
  10. Ibid, p. 118.
  11. Ibid, p. 118, emphasis original.
  12. Ibid, p. 118.
  13. Ibid, p. 118.
  14. O[livia] Custer, “Making Sense of Derrida’s Aporetic Hospitality”, in Zeynep Direk and Leonard Lawlor (Eds), Jacques Derrida: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers, 3 vols (London: Routledge, 2002), Vol. 3, 199–219, p. 200.
  15. Derrida, Adieu, p. 87.
  16. Mustafa Dikeç, “Pera Peras Poros: Longings for Spaces of Hospitality”, Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 19, No. 1–2, 2002, pp. 227–47, 232.
  17. Derrida, Adieu, p. 87.
  18. Ibid, p. 68.
  19. Custer, p. 217, n. 9.
  20. Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond, translated by Rachel Bowlby (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), p. 77.
  21. Kant, “To Perpetual Peace,” p. 118.
  22. Ibid, p. 118.
  23. Ibid, p. 118.
  24. Derrida, Adieu, p. 101.
  25. Derrida and Dufourmantelle, p. 15.
  26. Ibid, p. 27.
  27. Hent de Vries, “Violence and Testimony: On Sacrificing Sacrifice”, in Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber (Eds), Violence, Identity, and Self-Determination (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 14–43, 15.
  28. Jacques Derrida, “Hostipitality”, in Gil Anidjar (Ed.), Acts of Religion (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 356–420, 361.
  29. de Vries, p. 16.
  30. Derrida, Adieu, p. 15.
  31. Custer, p. 217, n. 13.
  32. Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991); Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, translated by Alphonso Lingis (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991).
  33. Custer, p. 199.
  34. Bo Fibiger, “A Dog Not yet Buried – Or Dogville as a Political Manifesto”, p. o. v., Vol. 16, 2003, pp. 56–65, 58.
  35. Throughout this article, Dogville is cited by chapter and prologue.
  36. Lars Von Trier, “Lars von Trier: The Defects of Humanism”, interview with Stig Björkman, Sight and Sound, February 2004, pp. 25–27, 25.
  37. Jack Stevenson, Lars Von Trier, (London: British Film Institute, 2002), p. 101.
  38. Lars Von Trier, “Control and Chaos”, interview with Christian Baad Thomsen, in Jan Lumholdt (Ed.), Lars Von Trier: Interviews (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003), pp. 106–16, 109.
  39. Ibid, p. 110.
  40. Raymond Giraud, “The First Justine”, Yale French Studies, Vol. 35, 1965, pp. 39–47, 41.
  41. Marquis de Sade, Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised, in Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings, edited and translated by Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, (New York: Grove, 1990), pp. 441–743, 743.
  42. Ibid, p. 742.
  43. Derrida, Adieu, p. 17.
  44. Eph. 2.19; Jacques Derrida, “On Cosmopolitanism”, translated by Mark Dooley, in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, (London: Routledge, 2001), pp. 3–24, 19.
  45. Thomas Keenan, “Fables of Responsibility,” in Alexander Gelley (Ed.), Unruly Examples: On the Rhetoric of Exemplarity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), pp. 121–41, 131; see also Keenan’s full-length study, Fables of Responsibility: Aberrations and Predicaments in Ethics and Politics, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997).
  46. Horace, Satires, 1.1.69–70; Keenan, p. 131–3.
  47. Keenan, p. 121.
  48. Kant, “To Perpetual Peace,” 118.
  49. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, translated and edited by Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). pp. 127-8, emphasis original; Susan M. Shell, “Cannibals All: The Grave Wit of Kant’s Perpetual Peace”, in Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber (Eds), Violence, Identity, and Self-Determination (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997), pp. 150–61, 151.
  50. Emile Benveniste, Indo-European Language and Society, translated by Elizabeth Palmer (London: Faber, 1973), p. 77. Benveniste’s chapter on hospitality is also a significant point of departure for Derrida’s own development of hospitality.
  51. Derrida, Adieu, p. 15.
  52. Jacques Derrida, “On Forgiveness”, in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, translated by Michael Hughes (London: Routledge, 2001), pp. 25–60, 34.
  53. John D. Caputo, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion Without Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997). pp. 226–7.
  54. Derrida, “On Forgiveness,” pp. 34–5.
  55. Derrida and Dufourmantelle, pp. 53–5.
  56. Derrida, “On Forgiveness”, p. 45, emphasis original.
  57. Ibid, p. 34, emphasis original.
  58. Ibid, p. 45, emphasis original.
  59. Ibid, p. 46.

About The Author

Adam Atkinson is a research student at the University of New South Wales (University College).

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