{ filoxenia }


Filoxenia is the Greek word for hospitality: a compound word from the words filo, which means love, and xenos, meaning stranger. It describes the social contract between the host (the person who is performing the act) and the guest (the person to whom the act is extended) and contains a set of rules and expectations that change based on cultural, historical and geographical locations. There are cultures where the act of filoxenia is considered to be a moral obligation and is sacred. Homer’s Odyssey, for example, includes incidences of hospitality and its rules.

Fast forwarding some thousands of years, marketing strategies for the tourism industry have turned hospitality into a commercial product, misappropriating the term and using it to describe touristic infrastructure and services provided upon payment. In that paradigm of hospitality, the workers for the industry became the hosts and the customers became the guests, in order to make the service more attractive to the tourist.

Filoxenia stands against the exploitation of the term by the tourism industry and the consequent mistreatment of its workers. Filoxenia doesn’t have to be at the level of ‘unconditional hospitality’ according to Derrida’s definition, but it does need to question the idea of hospitality formed by the colonial matrix of power, and to expand our understanding of the roles of the guest and the host. The definition of the guest is particularly critical in radicalising the idea of hospitality, depending on the meaning that we give to the word. To be considered as a potential guest is a right that is extended to very few, depending on economic, ethnic, racial and social background. In filoxenia, that right is extended to everybody: the guest is the stranger, the foreigner, the other, the person that any of us could become at some point in time.


Nefeli Makrynikola