Jacob Rogozinski, a professor of philosophy at Strasbourg University, discussed the history of hostility towards immigrants at Stony Brook University’s Harriman Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
During his “Remember You Have Been a Foreigner” lecture, Rogozinski emphasized the importance of refraining from looking at foreigners as “the other” through distinguished philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Immanuel Kant. He also referenced the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Exodus (the second book of the Bible), which both demonstrated the idea that a foreigner must be treated as a native-born.
Historical examples were also prevalent in his lecture as he contrasted the inviting nature of ancient Athenians with the nationalistic and hostile perspectives of many Europeans today.
“Athens was reportedly the most welcoming city for foreigners in Ancient Greece,” Rogozinski said, emphasizing his claim. Hospitality can, in fact, be seen as the foundation for Athenian democracy, he added.
“Do not mistreat or oppress the foreigners, for you were once foreigners in Egypt,” Rogozinski said, quoting the exodus. He explained the unfairness that links hostility towards immigrants in society. Rogozinski addressed the belief that national pride defined a country as well.
“Democracy is not defined by ethnic membership, but towards a common good,” he said.
Ed Casey, professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University (SBU), is one of the members who created this series of talks at the university. He detailed the importance that a speaker such as Rogozinski has on Stony Brook students by informing them about different disciplinary studies.
“This really exemplified a lecture that moved between departmental specialties and offered to the students a pluralistic point of view, not limited to specialties… It is no longer restricted to what people do in terms of major,” Casey said.
Rogozinski also commented on the notion that nations are hostile towards foreigners because of a fear that the country will become unstable.
“Sometimes we are frightened by the idea of being invaded by an unknown foreigner. We must resist this anxiety… the primordial fear of instability,” Rogozinski shared.
Jennifer Carter, another professor of philosophy at SBU who was present during the lecture, was visibly excited that the university was able to invite a speaker like Rogozinski.
“Jacob Rogozinski is such a key figure who I have known since he was here five years ago, so in a way he’s my teacher. I wrote about him in my dissertation. He’s really important to me as a teacher.”
Others, such as Horacio Martinez, instructor of philosophy at SBU, emphasized the significance of the timeliness, especially here.
“Stony Brook has a lot of first-generation college students who may not feel at home at Stony Brook because of where it’s at; it’s isolated. By giving a talk like this, we can start focusing on generosity and a kind of generosity that is contractual with ‘you’ll do this for me, I’ll do this for you,’” Martinez said.