Modern Hospitality: Lessons from the Past

By O'Gorman, Kevin D. | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2005 | Go to article overview

Modern Hospitality: Lessons from the Past


O'Gorman, Kevin D., Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


This article presents a summary of findings from a continuing investigation into the historical origins of hospitality in the ancient and classical worlds, focusing mainly on the Greek and Roman civilisations, After considering the etymology of hospitality, the article goes on to explore hospitality and mythology, hospitality and the household, public hospitality, commercial hospitality and hospitality in contemporaneous religious writings. The evaluation of the outcomes leads to the identification of five dimensions of hospitality (honourable tradition, fundamental to human existence, stratified, diversified and central to human endeavour) that have been evolving from the beginning of human history.

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As more attention is being channelled towards seeking a greater understanding of hospitality, the hope has already been expressed that this is 'a beginning from which the subject will grow and develop' (Lashley & Morrison, 2000, xvi). Hospitality and its history is an underresearched area for investigation. It would appear that the contemporary literature that addresses the history of hospitality is both inaccurate and lacking. The aim is that this research is to make a contribution to the knowledge base to the benefit of both scholars and practitioners. Contemporary literature attributes certain dimensions to hospitality, however, in primitive and archaic societies, hospitality was seen as essentially organic, as a vital and integral part of such societies, revealing much about their cultural values and beliefs.

Research Objectives and Methodology

The key question of the research is: To what extent are the modern dimensions of hospitality founded in ancient and classical history?

The research is comprised of three key areas of study:

1. an examination of the modern hospitality management literature in order to construct a taxonomy of the contemporary hospitality dimensions

2. a review of the works of other authors who have already conducted research in the same field in order to aid the construction of a working methodology

3. a study of the origins of hospitality within ancient and classical texts, and commentaries on them, in order to construct taxonomies of ancient and classical dimensions of hospitality.

This article reports on the third key area, the research being carried out within the interpretivist paradigm as it is seeking to observe the general trends and perceptions of a social phenomenon; it also requires the application of hermeneutics. Some of the problems of using literature in translation (compounded by the fact that this research is using texts that have been written in at least seven ancient or modern languages) and the surrounding controversies arise from four principal difficulties: differences in ancient manuscripts, obscure text and vocabulary, denominational bias, and translation philosophy. This view is supported by Strauss and Corbin's (1990) position that qualitative methods are useful for unravelling and understanding what lies behind any phenomenon about which little is known. Drucker (1974) points out that management is a practice rather than a science and Checkland (1999) observes that even proponents of the unity of science (such as Popper [1957] who assumes that facts can be gathered in the social sciences in much the same way as in natural sciences) have unfortunately devoted little attention to the particular problems of social science. Creswell (1998, 75f) states that it must be accepted that 'qualitative research is legitimate in its own right and does not need to be compared to achieve respectability'.

Etymology

Many modern words readily associated with hospitality are evolved from the same hypothetical Proto-Indo-European root *ghos-ti (1) meaning: stranger, guest, host: properly 'someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality' (American Heritage Dictionary, 2001).

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