Korb, Danaids (detail)
"To be different with”: Metoikia and Democracy in Aeschylus’ Suppliants
zoom (link below)
April 16, 2021
Carol Dougherty
3pm - 4:30pm

Preregister here.

In Aeschylus’ Suppliants, the Argive king Pelasgus is faced with an impossible choice – if he welcomes the Danaids who have fled Egypt to ask for asylum in Argos, their cousins, the Aegyptids, threaten to attack and destroy his city; if he refuses, he risks the inevitable wrath of Zeus, god of suppliants.  In this lecture, Professor Dougherty proposes that we read Pelasgus’ impossible choice in light of what Derrida calls the undecidability or aporia at the heart of hospitality.  We assert our authority, our sovereignty, by welcoming others into our community, and yet this act of generosity threatens the integrity of who we are and who is in charge.  How can we welcome difference and still remain sovereign, still retain our identity? In response to Pelasgus’ dilemma, the play imagines the origins of democratic rule in terms of this self-contradictory notion of hospitality, as the benefits and dangers of welcoming the foreigner into its community.  Pelasgus’ decision to welcome the Danaids coincides with his sharing the responsibility for that decision with the Argive people, and the play, poised at what Derrida calls “the critical crossroads of semantics or etymology and institutions,” enacts the invention of metoikia and democracy as impossibly and inextricably linked.