Hospitality refers to the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill, including the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.
Hospitality ethics is a discipline that studies this usage of hospitality.
Derives from the Latin hospes, meaning "host", "guest", or "stranger". Hospes is formed from hostis, which means "stranger" or "enemy" (the latter being where terms like "hostile" derive). By metonymy the Latin word 'Hospital' means a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn. Hospes is thus the root for the English words host (where the p was dropped for convenience of pronunciation), hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel.
In ancient cultures hospitality involved welcoming the stranger and offering him food, shelter, and safety.
In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia when a god was involved, expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. In Greek society a person's ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The Stoics regarded hospitality as a duty inspired by Zeus himself.
In India and Nepal hospitality is based on the principle Atithi Devo Bhava, meaning "the guest is God". This principle is shown in a number of stories where a guest is revealed to be a god who rewards the provider of hospitality. From this stems the Indian or Nepal practice of graciousness towards guests at home and in all social situations. The Tirukku?a?, an ancient Indian work on ethics and morality, explains the ethics of hospitality through its verses 81 through 90, dedicating a separate chapter on it (Chapter 9).
Judaism praises hospitality to strangers and guests based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 18:1-8 and 19:1-8). In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or "welcoming guests". Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.
In Christianity, hospitality is a virtue which is a reminder of sympathy for strangers and a rule to welcome visitors. This is a virtue found in the Old Testament, with, for example, the custom of the foot washing of visitors or the kiss of peace. It was taught by Jesus in the New Testament. Indeed, Jesus said that those who had welcomed a stranger had welcomed him. Some Western countries have developed a host culture for immigrants, based on the bible.
One of the main principles of Pashtunwali is Melmastia. This is the display of hospitality and profound respect to all visitors (regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status) without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.
Celtic societies also valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person's request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter for his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.
In the West today hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment. However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one's ingroup.
Jacques Derrida offers a model to understand hospitality that divides unconditional hospitality from conditional hospitality. Over the centuries, philosophers have devoted considerable attention to the problem of hospitality. However, hospitality offers a paradoxical situation (like language) since inclusion of those who are welcomed in the sacred law of hospitality implies others will be rejected. Julia Kristeva (1991) alerts readers to the dangers of "perverse hospitality", which consists of taking advantage of the vulnerability of aliens to dispossess them. Hospitality serves to reduce the tension in the process of host-guest encounters, producing a liminal zone that combines curiosity about others and fear of strangers. In general terms, the meaning of hospitality centres on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while traveling. However, not all voices are in agreement with this concept. Professor Anthony Pagden describes how the concept of hospitality was historically manipulated to legitimate the conquest of Americas by imposing the right of free transit, which was conducive to the formation of the modern nation-state. This suggests that hospitality is a political institution which can be ideologically deformed to oppress others.
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