{ to guest }


A list of words/concepts attempting “to identify marginality … as the site of radical possibility, a space of resistance.” (bell hooks, Choosing the margin as a space of radical openness):

An ally
A guest

A guest; in Finnish: vieras; literal meaning: a stranger.
A guest, a visitor; vierailija; a stranger (with no obligations to be hosted or to be the ‘good’ guest).
To visit; vierailla; to go and be a stranger somewhere; to guest.

A guest as a passive object is replaced with an active subject, to guest. Understanding a guest as a stranger opens up options for a concept describing a way of being together which doesn’t require homogenisation. One can be a stranger and not have the pressure to give up yourself, to blend in. To guest is to exist in a multiverse, allowing a multitude of meanings or subjects to cohabit in a space.

As Donna Haraway describes in A Cyborg Manifesto, while making a case for fractured identities: “This identity [U.S. women of colour] marks out a self-consciously constructed space that cannot affirm the capacity to act on the basis of natural identification, but only on the basis of conscious coalition, of affinity, of political kinship.”

To guest is to make space for fractured identities, to defy appropriation. But in contrast to Haraway’s aim, to guest doesn’t require political kinship or kinship of any kind. A stranger is allowed in your home, in yourself; you are a stranger to them as they are for you.

The expectation of hospitality and interaction that is embedded in a guest remains. To guest is an attempt for the “partial, real connection” that Haraway is afraid of losing in giving up on fractured identities. It is also an attempt to learn to see from below: “The alternative to relativism is partial, locatable, critical knowledges sustaining the possibility of webs of connections called solidarity in politics and shared conversations in epistemology.” (Haraway, Situated Knowledges)

By understanding a body as an active part of a non-verbal conversation, guesting makes space for contrasting views and resists segregation. While globalism and urbanisation driven by modernism have made the world easier to reach, the segregation of communities hasn’t followed. Two of the most influential and still widely used modernist dreams, Le Corbusier’s tower visions and Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities, are physical manifestations of segregating like-minded people in closed communities, taking away the space of strangers.


Pauli Rikaniemi