Social Capital, Pro-Social Behavior, and the Hospitality Ritual

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Al Condoluci's presentation at the Inclusive Play Symposium dealt with Social Capital - the idea that social networks have intrinsic value.

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Two categories are central to social capital theory: bonding social capital and bridging social capital. The first refers to groups made of members who are similar and the second to those whose differences make linkages between them less likely under other circumstances. 

Network Theory observes that the number relationships for a given entity (node) vary widely. Clusters can be seen in graphs of relationships resembling islands and continents with bridging nodes exercising leverage roles between clusters.  For many people without a disability linking with a PwD, even in their own community, creates bridging social capital (in both directions.) Given the difficulty of travel with a disability the scarcity of contacts created by PwD in foreign countries can be a quite unique bridging relationship.

Condoluci went on to examine social assets and pro-social behavior. Pro-social behavior has been described as:

The term prosocial behavior describes acts that demonstrate a sense of empathy, caring, and ethics, including sharing, cooperating, helping others, generosity, praising, complying, telling the truth, defending others, supporting others with warmth and affection, nurturing and guiding, and even the altruistic act of risking one's life to warn or aid another. 

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Individuals and networks accrue social capital. Prosocial behavior allows for retention of those assets. Acquiring the capacity for prosocial behavior is a developmental task. Play facilitates such development.

If "play is reaching out for joy and leisure travel is a search for new playspaces and playmates" in the acquisition of social capital then what is "hospitality?"

Hospitality is the application of prosocial behavior to strangers precisely because they are strangers. Hospitality is a strategy to foster bridging social capital. Whether highly altruistic or calculated in its aim of accruing social assets for those participating hospitality often includes highly symbolic and ritualized behaviors designed to lower anxiety and facilitate trust in the ambiguity of first encounters.

"Aloha" (Hawai'i) and "morabeza" (Cabo Verde) are just two culturally specific instances of prosocial behavior to strangers (hospitality).

The questions for Inclusive Tourism become: 

  • What do these cultural formations of welcome and bridging manifest when the stranger is a person with a disability? 
  • What bridging opportunities are permitted or denied if one is a person with a disability?
  • Are all the constituent prosocial behaviors shown to a visitor with a disability? Expect of her/him?
  • When mobility, communication, or play are part of  the hospitality ritual what disability-friendly modes are available when performing it? (Is a home visitable? Is non-auditory communication available? Is inclusion planned for?)

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