This article provides a historical perspective to understand better whether
hospitality persists as a measure of society across contexts. Focusing on Homer and
later Tragedians, it charts ancient literature’s deep interest in the tensions of balancing
obligations to provide hospitality and asylum, and the responsibilities of well-being
owed to host-citizens by their leaders. Such discourse appears central at key transformative
moments, such as the Greek polis democracy of the fifth century BCE, hospitality
becoming the marker between civic society and the international community,
confronting the space between civil and human rights. At its center was the question
of: Who is the host? The article goes on to question whether the seventeenth-century
advent of the nation state was such a moment, and whether in the twenty-first century
we observe a shift towards states’ treatment of their own subjects as primary in measuring
society, with hospitality becoming the exception to be explained.
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