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Hospitality, secrecy and gossip in Morocco: Hosting CouchSurfers against great odds

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Online hospitality exchange networks whose members offer and request free overnight stays at other members' homes have been founded in the 'West', but the increasing number of members in non-western societies poses challenging questions about issues of reciprocity and the assumed equality of members worldwide. In addition to limited access to international leisure travel and the role of the 'guest' in hospitality exchange, being a 'host' also faces great odds in various societies. An ethnographic study on the practice of CouchSurfing in Marrakech (February–July 2010) shows that several Moroccan members, who live with their parents, express the wish to host but their participation is actually limited to showing people around. Departing from the observation that hosting, both at the home of members' parents or in single households, causes considerable gossip and speculative contemplation among neighbours, this article explores CouchSurfing's entanglement with (other) local forms of hospitality and discrepancies with cultural conventions regarding what people view as appropriate reception of guests. The conflict and gossip crystallize around moral concerns about sexual relations between Moroccan men and 'western' women on the one hand, and expected reciprocity and assumed financial remuneration on the other.
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Keywords: CouchSurfing; Morocco; changing forms of hospitality; gossip; housing; neighbours; reputation; singlehood

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Oriental and African Studies

Publication date: 2012-02-16

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  • Hospitality & Society is an international multidisciplinary social sciences journal focusing upon hospitality and exploring its connections with wider social and cultural processes and structures. The journal welcomes submissions from various disciplines and aims to be an interactive forum expanding frontiers of knowledge and contributing to the literature on hospitality social science. Articles that stimulate debate, discussion and exchange across disciplines are welcomed, as well as review essays or short topical pieces that are provocative and problematic in nature.
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