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Vol 39  No 10
Feb. 22, 2007


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Individuals, the city and ‘global guesthood’
by Leslie Vryenhoek

Dr. Nigel Rapport, the Canada Research Chair in Globalization, Citizenship and Justice and the director of the Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies at Concordia University, will be the next Henrietta Harvey Distinguished Lecturer. (Photo courtesy of Concordia University)

Dr. Nigel Rapport will be the next Henrietta Harvey Distinguished Lecturer. On Wednesday, March 7, the Canada Research Chair in Globalization, Citizenship and Justice and the director of the Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies at Concordia University will deliver his plenary lecture People of the Air and City of Global Guests.

Dr. Rapport said he named this lecture for a slur favoured by the Nazis: Luftmenschen, or people of the air, of smoke – those who have no roots and so remain “guests” among others.

“My talk is a paean to Luftmenschlichkeit. I argue for an appreciation and an education of global guesthood; and for the city as a site where an embodiment of global guesthood might be secured and enshrined,” he explained.

Dr. Rapport is interested in individual identity as separate and distinct from group identity. “It’s human to make connections, it’s human to want to belong, and to create communities,” Dr. Rapport said. “However, it’s not who we are by gender, by ethnicity or by nationality; rather, humanity resides in the individual’s capacity to achieve.”

In his public talk, he will touch on the question of human rights, and argue that such rights cannot be ascribed to groups, but must reside with individuals.

Throughout a lifetime, he noted, people will belong to several different kinds of groups. He believes the freedom to join different groups – and to exit those groups – is something a liberal state should protect. He believes movement and multiplicity are crucial to ideas of justice and just relations between humans.

This lecture will argue for the appreciation of global guesthood and for cities as a place to enshrine this. By conceiving of themselves as mutual guests on a small planet, human beings can escape the mutual destruction that derives from exclusivist identities fixed to territories.

“[This talk] is based in the wish that people will recognize their own right to choose identities,” he says. “Intrinsically, we begin to make ourselves from our births onward.”

The lecture takes place at 8 p.m. in the Arts Atrium, room A-1046. All welcome; refreshments will be provided.

The Henrietta Harvey Distinguished Lecture Series was made possible by the generosity of its namesake, who in 1964 left a gift to Memorial in her will, asking that the funds be used for the enrichment of the university in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

During his weeklong stay in St. John’s, Dr. Rapport will give several other lectures. For the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology on Tuesday, he will offer “From Everyman to Everyone: Affording Space to the Global Individual”, which will explore issues of universal morality, and the individual in the social milieus.

On Thursday, his talk sponsored by the Philosophy and Political Science Departments will examine Kierkegaard’s Faith and Nietzsche’s Breakdown: The Objectivity of Subjectivity in Human Science. On Friday, he will draw on his field research to talk about the identities and well-being of hospital porters at the School of Nursing. Location and times for all events are in the calendar; all are welcome to attend.

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