White innocence in the Black Mediterranean: hospitality and the erasure of history
Themes of loss, grief, and vulnerability have come to occupy an increasingly central position in contemporary poststructuralist and feminist theory. Thinkers such as Judith Butler and Stephen White have argued that grief has the capacity to access or stage a commonality that eludes politics and on which a new cosmopolitan ethics can be built. Focusing on the role of grief in recent pro-Refugee activism in Europe, this article argues that these ethical perspectives contribute to an ideological formation that disconnects connected histories and that turns questions of responsibility, guilt, restitution, repentance, and structural reform into matters of empathy, generosity, and hospitality. The result is a veil of ignorance which, while not precisely Rawlsian, allows the European subject to re-constitute itself as ‘ethical’ and ‘good’, innocent of its imperialist histories and present complicities.