Critical Hospitality Symposium, Critical Hospitality Symposium II: Hospitality IS Society

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Identity, ideology and power relations in the host-guest relationship
Gesthimani Moysidou

Last modified: 2018-07-02


An individual’s social identity has been argued to be the primary root of their ideological inclinations and beliefs (Malesevic, 2010). Apart from the traditional ideologies that shape people’s identities, such as religion and political beliefs, other ideologies including feminism, environmentalism and anti-consumerism among others, often affect their beliefs and behaviour albeit to a lesser extent (Malesevic, 2013). It has been argued that when their identity is threatened, people tend to experience anxious uncertainty which they try to eliminate through various reactive defensive methods (Jonas et al, 2014). However, the sensitive power balance in the host-guest relationship is likely to influence these reactions. The guest’s presence in the home prompts an exertion of power by the host, who tries to maintain the sovereignty of their space (Germann Molz and Gibson, 2008). The disturbance in the home’s balance creates the need to negotiate boundaries, both emotional and spatial, while in order to develop intimacy between the two sides acts of mutuality and compromise are necessary (Bialski, 2011). Therefore, the guest must adjust their behaviour and habits according to the host’s rules, while the latter must relinquish some of their freedom and power (Lashley, Lynch and Morrison, 2007; Lynch, Di Domenico and Sweeney, 2007).

The setting for this research is a hospitality encounter characterised by a combination of work, homestay and cultural exchange (Cox and Narula, 2003), where a few hours of daily work by the guest are exchanged for food and accommodation provided by the host. Examples include Au pairing and various opportunities offered by organisations such as WWOOF, Workaway and HelpX. The success of the encounter, which is governed by a moral economy, relies on a positive social exchange (Mosedale, 2011) a fact that both sides seem to recognise. However, certain topics of conversation, mostly connected to personal ideologies, can cause tension between the two sides. The presentation will be based on an ongoing PhD research, focused on part of the findings of an autoethnographic account and 50 interviews with hosts and guests in this setting with regards to the reaction of participants when they observed a divergence in ideology with their counterparts. The various responses to the choice between maintaining the sensitive balance of this exchange while not renouncing their personal ideologies and ethics will provide an insight into issues of hospitality, power relations and identity that arise in the complex spatial arena of the home.


Reference List

Bialski, P. (2011) “Technologies of hospitality: How planned encounters develop between strangers” Hospitality & Society1(3), pp. 245-260

Cox, R. and Narula, R. (2003) “Playing Happy Families: rules and relationships in au pair employing households in London, England” Gender, Place & Culture, 10(4), pp.333-344

Germann Molz, J., and Gibson, S. (2007) Introduction: mobilizing and mooring hospitality in Germann Molz (Ed) Mobilizing Hospitality: The Ethics of Social Relations in a Mobile World, pp. 121-144

Jonas, E., McGregor, I., Klackl, J., Agroskin, D., Fritsche, I., Holbrook, C., and Quirin, M. (2014) Threat and defense: From anxiety to approach, Advances in experimental social psychology49, pp. 219-286

Lashley, C., Lynch, P. and Morrison, A. (2007), “Hospitality: An Introduction” in, Lashley, C., Lynch, P. and Morrison, A. (Eds), Hospitality: A Social Lens, Oxford, Elsevier

Lynch, P., Di Domenico, M. L., & Sweeney, M. (2007). Resident hosts and mobile strangers: Temporary exchanges within the topography of the commercial home. Mobilizing hospitality: The ethics of social relations in a mobile world, pp. 121-144.

Malešević, S. (2010) The sociology of war and violence, Cambridge University Press

Malešević, S. (2013) How will ideology affect notions of identity in the next 10 years? In Foresight Future Identities, Final Project Report, The Government Office for Science, London

Mosedale, J. (2011). Diverse economies and alternative economic practices in tourism, in Ateljevic, I., Morgan, N and Pritchard, A. (Eds) The Critical Turn in Tourism Studies: Creating an Academy of Hope, London, Routledge, pp. 194-207

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