Sexual Difference as Hospitality: Chantal Akerman’s 'De L’Autre Côté/From the Other Side’

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‘Let us say yes to who or what turns up’ Jacques Derrida proposes, in a call for unconditional hospitality significant for being inseparable from a question of sexual difference. Unlike the conditional hospitality offered by host to invited guest, unconditional hospitality affirms the other who arrives at the border before any identification or determination of who they are, male or female. This affirmation of an absolute other means reconceiving of both self and other through sexual difference. It is a question of difference without identification where what the female is, or could be, opens towards unprecedented political identities irreducible to phallocentric oppositional logic. This paper explores how Chantal Akerman’s film De L’Autre Côté/From the Other Side’ (2002) inscribes unconditional hospitality through, and as, sexual difference. The film was shot on both sides of the US/Mexico border in the post-9/11 period of ‘counter-terrorism’ securitisation and features interviews with individuals on each side. On the Mexican side, they tell stories of traumatic loss and sacrifice in trying to cross to the US. On the US side, most interviewees express xenophobic hostility. I argue that it is not though these representations that the film makes propositions about unconditional hospitality, or sexual difference. At a formal level the film shows hospitality as an ethics of sexual difference by crossing aesthetic borders to defy self-sameness. By bringing her own footage to a relation of equivalence with footage from other sources, Akerman produces aesthetics of non-self identity, borderlessness and a non-hierarchical relation to otherness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherAssociation of Art Historians
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 10 Apr 2015
EventAssociation of Art Historians Annual Conference - University of East Anglia, Norwich
Duration: 10 Apr 2015 → …


ConferenceAssociation of Art Historians Annual Conference
Period10/04/15 → …


  • Sexual difference as hospitality: Chantal Akerman’s De L’Autre Côté/From the Other Side’


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