January 09, 2007

More of Kristeva on ‘Paul and Augustine: The Therapeutics of Exile and Pilgrammage’

Saint Augustine

Citivas Peregrina
The civitas peregrine comes from the Roman definition of a community of high status and here Kristeva begins to consider Saint Augustine who wrote of wicked and paradisaical cities, as the Jews longed for a return to Jerusalem. She cites Enarr. in Psalm 64:1-2 and 2-3 in which the city of Babylon is dominated by ‘the voice of the flesh’, while Jerusalem ‘hears the song of our heart’. To separate oneself from Babylon was a ‘true transubstantiation’ and a ‘pilgrimage’ according to Augustine. Kristeva recognises the desire in such writings to change the foreigner into a pilgrim and she describes the civitas peregrina as ‘a psychic momentum and a community of mutual assistance that seemed like the only solution to uprooting, with neither rejection nor national assimilation, the religious element preserving the ethnic origin, which it dominated at the same time through the availability of a psychic and social experience that is other’ (84).

Differences between the worthy and unworthy, the faithful and unfaithful, the good and the bad—and even the heretics: those are not to be reconciled but brought together through the possibility of giving and the acceptance of what is given. The pilgrim gives and receives, his wandering having become gift is an enthusiasm: it is known as caritas . (84)

Caritas is Christian love of humankind or charity. Kristeva approves of its sentiment because the foreigner is no longer estranged ‘within the universality of love for the other’ (84). However, the desires of human beings could obstruct the universality of caritas: ‘The fate of the foreigner in the Middle Ages—and in many respects also today—depended on a subtle, sometimes brutal, play between caritas and the political jurisdiction’ (85).

Peregrine Hospitality
The word peregrine is best known as referring to a bird of prey, but it comes from the Latin Peregrinus meaning ‘foreigner’ or ‘stranger’. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names explains that Peregrine was a name borne by various early Christian saints, perhaps referring to the belief that men and women are merely sojourners upon the earth, their true home being in heaven. In this section, Kristeva considers the sojourns of pilgrims and the hospitality that they could expect to receive. What grew up was ‘a lodging industry’ (85). Kristeva notes that this kind of hospitality is a factor in other religions too, such as Islam.

At first there were only tabernae (inns) and hospitia (hotels) but later the xenon or xenodochia appeared, an institution described by The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium as a philanthropic establishment based on the principle of Christian hospitality often founded by a private citizen, where food and lodging were free. Kristeva explains that such organizations were often built near churches and were run by monks or special stewards who were considered to be ‘the holiest of priests’ (86).

However, such hospitality was only offered to Christians, so that while a foreign Christian was not a stranger, the foreign non-Christian was. To prove their faith, Christians needed a letter (litterae commicatoriae or literae formatae_) which acted as a passport. Kristeva wonders whether the hospitality of Christians forced many travellers to become Christians as a means of survival. Such rules marked the beginning of dogmatism, that tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others and Kristeva sees in such beginnings the seeds of the Inquisition.

Feudal society was also developing bringing new changes to the foreigner’s status. When not born on a lord’s land, the foreigner was an aubain and whether that foreigner gained a right to remain in that place was down to economics.

Consequently the Middle Ages experienced two attitudes where foreigners were concerned: one, Christian, with its advantages and abuses, now protective, then persecutive; and the other, political, which was modified along with the evolution of feudalism toward a centralized feudal State, and which submitted the foreigner to economic demands according to the views of the local political powers (either, “the foreigner is in excess”, or, “we need the foreigner”). (88)

The Late Empire: Integrating the Peregrines
The idea of the peregrine was beginning to be ‘blurred’ later and gained a ‘mystical drift’ (88). Peregrines had been absorbed into the Roman Republic in a similar manner as foreigners were accepted into the French Republic during its annexation (1795-1814). Previously peregrinus had been in conflict with civis romanus (Roman citizenship), but it began to change meaning, referring now to a person from the provinces. There were new foreigners though to replace the old ones: the barbarian and heretic.

Although Romans welcomed some barbarians in the 4th and 5th centuries, they did not have the same legal status as Romans. Rather they were:
deditices (defeated people with uncertain legal status subject to tax);
feoderati (joined the military but exempt from tax);
laeti (freed barbarian prisoners);
• and gentiles or gentes (inferior to laeti, but granted concessions for military service and upkeep of limes (frontiers)).

Later the laws were changed so that barbarians could rise to civic office and barbarians often became leaders in the military, for example:
• Dagalaiph,
• Merobaud,
• Bauto,
• Arbogast,
• Alaric,
• Stilicho,
• and Athaulf.
Kristeva compares this with ‘Islam calling in Christians or Jews before the Crusades; Chinese emperors naming foreigners to public offices; medieval India integrating its para-disi (“men from another land”)’ (89). In Rome, there were also mixed marriages which went against Roman law and became common by the beginning of the 5th century.

Kristeva believes that this mixing of peoples inflects the use of the term Romania. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium explains that this was a Latin term created in the 4th century as a way to describe the Roman Empire, especially in contrast to the barbarian world. It originated in a Christian milieu and as Kristeva notes was ‘often identified with the Roman Church and conflicting, by its very nature, with the barbarians outside as it did with the heretics inside’ (90). Eventually Christianity was imposed on the Roman Empire and heretics became the new foreigners. Kristeva sums up: ‘One foreigner drives out the other’ (90).

The Elusive Foreigner in the Middle Ages
Kristeva now returns to the aubain and his position in a foreign seigniory (feudal lordship). The foreignness of the subject would depend on the tolerance of his previous community and on the jurisdiction of the lord. Focusing on French history, Kristeva notes that the aubain was not a serf to be taxed but a free man, yet the aubain could fall into serfdom were he to stay in a place for more than a year and an aubain was always serf to the king.

Although everyone was supposed to make an oath to a lord and join a seigniory, the rules about land, serfdom and aubains were very complicated. At the beginning of the 12th century, there were still differentiations made between settled foreigners (advenae) and visiting foreigners (peregrini).

Gradually the king became the one with most power over aubains and though the aubain did not have a debt of servitude, the term became associated with the inability to pass on inheritance which falls back to the king. The aubain then ‘is no longer a foreigner’ (93).

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