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Hospitality as a gift relationship: Political refugees as guests in the private sphere

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In this article we investigate hospitality towards political refugees who were offered prolonged shelter in private homes in the Netherlands during the early 1990s. We assume that the social relationship developing between host and guest in this case will not remain a relationship between complete strangers, nor will it be based on the intimacy that often characterizes a relationship with friends or family. How does the relationship between host and guest take shape in such a dynamic? We develop a theoretical model based on some basic dimensions of hospitality. Our empirical analysis shows that the encounter between host and guest-as-stranger is manifested in four different ways: (1) hospitality as a means to control danger represented by the stranger; (2) hospitality as a selective phenomenon, in which those closer in emotional and social distance are preferred over those farther away in that respect; (3) hospitality as being regulated by the principle of reciprocity; and (4) hospitality as potentially endangered by issues of power and dependency.
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Keywords: gift theory; hospitality; motives underlying hospitality; reciprocity; social distance; strangers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Erasmus University

Publication date: 2012-08-08

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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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