Be Our Guest: American Hospitality and International Identities in the 20th Century

AHA Session 224
Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Buckingham Room (Hilton Chicago, Lobby Level)
Helen Veit, Michigan State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

The business of hosting seeks to establish connections for customers that put them at ease and bring them back. The loyalty implied by repeat custom is nurtured through constructions of belonging and shared meaning making that is can not be dismissed as mere commerce. When American migrations of populations and ideas stretched loyalties in the 20th century, hospitality businesses stepped in to reaffirm or redirect them. In this panel, three scholars explore how Americans made themselves at home abroad, domesticated fantasies of foreign lands, and established international identities in immigrant communities in the twentieth century. A restaurant in Chicago allowed patrons who had migrated north from the borderlands to keep a connection to that world while rum entrepreneur Victor Bergeron domesticated stereotyped pleasures of the South Pacific and Conrad Hilton, a devotee of Tex-Mex cuisine as well as host of some of Bergeron’s bars, offered Americans a standardized model of hospitality that brought home and away seamlessly together. Collectively, the work discussed in this panel is the work of establishing places with transnational identities and loyalties. We reveal how the work of hospitality in restaurants, bars and hotels contributed to a broader reconceptualization of America’s place in the world in the twentieth century.
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