Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Arts in Arabic
World Languages, Literatures and Cultures
Committee Member/Second Reader
Committee Member/Third Reader
“Right now, you and me sitting here, this is hospitality.” My eyes darted left and right to the surrounding street for a moment as I took in the feeling of a sticky, metal chair against my legs and thirst settling in my throat. This was not the kind of Arab hospitality I had read about in books -- the extravagant kind that absolutely involves food and three days of accommodations before the hosts can ask the reason a guest is in their home. This felt to me like exactly what it was, a random interview with a stranger conducted in the road outside his Arab-themed tourist shop in Granada, Spain and not like I was being hosted. But I came to understand that, in a new way, in a modern age, I was in that moment on the receiving end of gracious hospitality.
I had set out to study Arab hospitality while studying abroad in Granada, Spain. More specifically, I set out to survey the history of hospitality in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East and to compare the traditional expressions of hospitality to the practical hospitality adaptations of immigrants from Arab countries who live in Spain. I interviewed twelve redefiners and creative practitioners of hospitality who reside in busy, urban settings and had a variety of nationalities, ages, career fields, and experiences. I knew only one of the interviewees personally, my Arabic professor, and the rest I was introduced to by Spaniards who either had Arab friends or, more often, acquaintances who were willing to answer my questions about their hospitality practices and experiences in Spain.
Hospitality, the generous welcoming of outsiders into one’s own space and meeting their needs and wants, is the backbone of community relationships and vital in constructing honorable family reputations. Anthropologist Michael Herzfeld highlights the enormous importance of hospitality in touching every aspect of life in Arab communities when he suggests switching the anthropological discussion of honor and shame cultures to the more precise and quantifiable research of hospitality (Herzfeld, 1987). Cultures described as operating within systems of honor and shame, theoretical terms that often lead to stereotyping, could equally be described in terms of hospitality -- inclusion and exclusion in societal life. Herzfeld’s observation shows how hospitality permeates everyday life, personal and family decision-making, and the basis of social society in communities that are culturally driven by visiting and hospitality etiquette. Therefore, the importance of hospitality cannot be overstated.
As briefly mentioned, inherent in the research of hospitality and welcome is the converse of exclusion. Giving and receiving hospitality is always a choice of visiting some and not others. Through studying the hospitality practices of Arab immigrants in Spain, I have a window into their level of social integration into Spanish society and their experiences of exclusion and racism, an unfortunately frequent topic of the interviews.
My literature review is extensive and broad, including articles and books about hospitality conceptually, hospitality practices in Arab countries, and immigration. For example, it is helpful to know that widespread immigration to Spain is a relatively new phenomenon. Spain only became a major receiving country in the early 2000s which is reflected in my interview pool (Liu, 2019); all twelve of the people I interviewed were born outside of Spain. Consequently, my research touches on the reactions of Spaniards who are newly exposed to the impact of immigration and Arab immigrants who are more closely tied to their home countries than first, second, or third-generation immigrants would be.
Another interesting aspect of my research - and a practical application for anyone anywhere interested in showing hospitality to their neighbors - is a discussion of how people living in various Arab countries are overcoming the challenges of hospitality such as limited resources and time. As an extension of this, the people I interviewed shared ways they are cultivating hospitality amidst full schedules and a new context in Spain. Part of this creative adaptation includes incorporating hospitality into the worklife and treating the business as if it is one’s home which is how the man I interviewed sitting outside his shop in a metal chair was showing me hospitality. Even though he didn’t give me anything to consume, he showed me hospitality by welcoming me into a space he owned and meeting my needs and wants by answering my interview questions. In this way, hospitality is redefined and reworked to make visiting doable in any context and to maintain the strong and noble cultural value of hospitality while residing in Spain.
Liu, C., Esteve, A., & Treviño, R. (2019). The living arrangements of Moroccans in Spain:
Generation and time. Demographic Research, 40, 1063–1096. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26727026
Michael Herzfeld. (1987). As in Your Own House: Hospitality, Ethnography, and the Stereotype
of Mediterranean Society. In Honor and Shame and the Unity of the Mediterranean. American Anthropological Association.
Hospitality; Arab cultures; immigration; sociality; Spain
Falknor, S. (2023). Reworking Hospitality: The Social Practices of Arab Immigrants in Granada, Spain. World Languages, Literatures and Cultures Undergraduate Honors Theses Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/wllcuht/10