Can Social Unequals be Friends?
Western tourists and their Maghrebi hosts negotiate moral ambiguity
Digital communication and travel have considerably widened the range of people who we can potentially connect with and befriend. These emerging relationships often cut across national, cultural and economic boundaries. This article explores the trajectories and moral reasoning of such ties between unequal partners in the Maghreb. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork in Tunis (2009) and Marrakech (2010), I analyse the specific case of Couchsurfing.org, that is, the locally most widespread Internet-based hospitality network. I examine the moral negotiations of the friendships enacted in the creative space of ‘touristic borderzones’ (Bruner 1996), which are characterised by inequality and economic disparity. This will be explored in a comparative framework, with most Tunisian members being far more privileged than their Moroccan counterparts in terms of purchasing power and access to international mobility. The bigger theoretical question behind much of this discussion concerns the possibility of amity regardless of usual categories such as social class, nationality, age or gender.
Keywords: hospitality networks, friendship, inequality, exchange, Morocco,
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Copyright (c) 2022 Sonja Buchberger
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