Home: Hospitality, Belonging and the Nation
(performance script & video)

Karma R. Chávez, Sara L. McKinnon, Lucas Messer and Marjorie Hazeltine

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Arizona is known for its hospitality to outsiders—“snowbirds,” Californians, and Midwestern transplants. At the same time, Arizona, like the rest of the United States, has long attempted to erect strict borders around who can and cannot comfortably belong. In 2006, residents in Arizona were asked to vote on a ballot referendum, Proposition 107, that sought to limit the rights of queer people through an amendment that not only would have banned “gay marriage,” but also would have prevented the state from offering benefits to any domestic partners—gay or straight. Arizonans defeated this measure at the same time that seven other states passed similar ones. Simultaneously, Arizonans voted upon four referenda that sought to severely restrict the rights of undocumented migrants in the state, and these measures passed with an overwhelming majority. Though the outcomes were different, and the levels of severity not comparable, the authors of this performance understood both of these events as crises of hospitality and belonging. The authors also saw an inextricable link between the exclusion of queers and the exclusion of migrants, one that demanded a response.

Out of the need for a response, emerged Home. Through some of the authors’ readings of Derrida and Dufourmantelle on hospitality , and through others’ consistent engagement with queer, migrant and queer migrant communities, we began to question who gets to call the places and spaces they find themselves in, home. How might our thinking of immigration in particular, be influenced by the fact that we think of the nation as a home, and as a result, we want to have a say in who gets to be present there? Arizona is merely a microcosm that represents the larger situation in the United States, and in our experiences, people’s desire to “have a say” in what is happening in their home, leads to a lot of saying, or talk, opinions, beliefs about the people (who are not “us”) who supposedly want to call the U.S. nation home. This is talk that many of us have experienced in the various spaces we call home. Sometimes in the car as a scan of radio stations stops on an interview with the governor who proffers border fences and National Guard forces as the solution to “securing our nation.” Often in classrooms as student voices dissonantly rise with conviction as to the proper ways to deal with “them,” or “those people.” And certainly in intimate spaces—apartments, single family homes, gated communities, high rise condos, townhouses and farms—where people we call family, friends, acquaintances and strangers are invited in (or not) and profess opinions about “them,” “those people,” the others. Sometimes the words spoken are expected, comfortable, in accordance; yet other times they are alienating, disruptive and even violating. Sometimes such words figure people as strangers in what should be their own homes. Just as the variances in the reaction to the words, there is also a range of options that we have to respond—to retort sarcastically, to argue, to call someone out for their racism/sexism/xenophobia/heterosexism, to remain silent or to silence. These responses come from our different positionalities.

As performers, scholars and activists we wanted to create the kind of response that could invite audiences to think about the nature of home and belonging, especially in relation to home’s exclusions, (in)securities, and contingencies. By providing what we envisioned as a familiar scenario for many “middle Americans,” we wanted Home to trigger audiences to see parts of themselves in the characters, in the conversations, in the silences, in the tensions. We also wanted audiences to think about their immigration politics and their social politics generally within the frame of hospitality. Who do we invite into our homes? Who is a good guest? What does it mean to be a good host? How do these values translate to our beliefs about belonging on a broader scale? In the spirit of Levinas, we believe in the political value of ethical accountability and response-ability. We hope Home reflects and enacts our beliefs.

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