Appropriation of the Oikos: Precarious Host/Guest Relations in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe’s most famous adventure novel Robinson Crusoe introduces the eponymous protagonist as a self-made practical man that fares more or less well in the world given his survival skills helped by a fair amount of luck. Crusoe appears to be the embodiment of homo economicus who optimally engages with his environment to reach his self-interested ends, and such engagement accordingly points to a certain manipulation of, or domination over other humans, animals, and nature in general. Crusoe has an unabashed propensity for claiming things, people, and places that fall under his gaze as his own throughout the narrative. In this study, I will read Crusoe’s attitude and claim of ownership through the lens of Derridean host/guest relations in which Crusoe is revealed to be a guest who is received in the “home” of the oikos (as in homeland, i.e. the land that receives/accommodates). However, as I further contend, Crusoe’s increasingly possessive, expansionist, and exploitative attitude figures as a precursor to humans’ endless desire to dominate and appropriate nature (oikos), and thus become masters/hosts in the world where they are, in fact, mere guests.
Keywords: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Derrida, host, guest, oikos, homo robinsoniensis
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