In sitting down to compose this reflection, I am attempting to connect Project Row Houses as object and project to Derrida’s concepts of hospitality. However, I am finding that, since my read of Derrida was that he is more skeptical of the concept of hospitality and I find Project Row Houses to be a positive force, the connection I want to make is a bit forced. So perhaps Project Row Houses is not hospitality at all; it is not inviting someone in based on law, not asking someone to name themselves.
Project Row Houses doesn’t seem to be recognizing “foreigner” but cultivating people and culture with art, education, and safety nets who do not have to be identified by their location. Yet are these cultural and social things not deserved for all? The existence of Project Row Houses seems to imply that there is a divide in Houston, that, despite this neighborhood being a famous African American neighborhood in the city, this particular community is seen as outsider, as foreigner. Though with the history of slavery and racism in America, I wonder if it’s actually foreigner, and not other. This makes me think that hospitality was catalyst to this project, to building homes, not looking for hospitality, but looking to go beyond the assumptions and alienation that comes with such a concept.
Then I get to hospitality and home building. Would Rick Lowe and other organizers want to create hospitality of homes? What is the difference between the two? Upon further research, I found that a group of students approached Lowe and had asked him to do something about the problems they were facing instead of just raising awareness. Hospitality could be seen as raising awareness. A welcome mat does not make people safe or part of the community. It simply welcomes an outsider into a structure of laws, raising awareness of a foreigner’s presence. A home and building a home that one may live in offers much more. A home, that ownership of a space, contributes to also the ownership of one’s own self regulation, to one’s safety, allows for a culture to grow — home is belonging. Project Row Houses is not hospitality, it is not the foreigner, it is home.