Risky Cosmopolitanism: Intimacy and Autoimmunity in The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

For a novel consistently teetering on the brink of violence, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist begins in a surprisingly benign manner but ultimately offers a sustained interrogation of the possibilities and limits of hospitality in a time of terror. The novel is permeated by references to familiar forms of hospitality and their ultimate failure, yet this article focuses more specifically on the troubling implications The Reluctant Fundamentalist has for a philosophy of hospitality; that is, what appears as a failure of hospitality—the inevitable violence of the novel’s conclusion—is actually a provocative and sustained engagement with hospitality in its most pure and terrifying form. Using the figures offered to us by Immanuel Kant and Jacques Derrida, I argue that the novel theorizes a hospitality given even and especially when the face of the other is the irreducible face of death. It exemplifies what Gideon Baker conceptualizes as cosmopolitanism as hospitality—an ethics that opens to difference as Other whatever that other may bring in his infinitely unknowable state. Ultimately, The Reluctant Fundamentalist suggests that if absolute hospitality is an openness to whoever or whatever arrives, then included in that is a hospitality even to the one who comes to kill.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-225
Number of pages10
JournalCritique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Volume58
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • Hospitality
  • fundamentalism
  • violence
  • autoimmunity
  • Terror

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