Occupied Home-Sharing: Airbnb in Palestine
sharing economy
platform capitalism

If home is the engine room of Palestinian subjectivities, what does Airbnb do to the functioning of that engine? What do the experiences of Palestinian hosts demonstrate about the logics, presuppositions, and effects of Airbnb as a technology of platform capitalism? This essay makes two arguments: First, in enrolling people into new relations with their homes and the homes of others, Airbnb shapes and is shaped by socialities, modes of exchange, and material conditions. Second, encoded within Airbnb’s operation are assumptions that users are located in benevolent, democratic states with functioning infrastructures. An analysis of the platform must thus take politics, history, and culture into account. Part I introduces the concept of “occupied home-sharing” for understanding Airbnb’s manifestation in Palestine. Occupied home-sharing highlights that Palestine’s hosts are incarcerated and host unfreely. It also helps reframe occupation and settler colonialism as forms of coerced hosting that allow intrusions of violence into home spaces. Part II examines four different aspects of hosts’ experiences of the platform: 1) property as flexible infrastructure, 2) gifts, family, community, 3) rejections, and 4) exclusions. The conclusion considers what these help us to understand about the relationship between Airbnb and precarity in Palestine. Airbnb is both a result of existing forms of precarity born from occupied home-sharing and an instrument for mitigating and making worlds within them.

Author biography: 

Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins is an assistant professor of anthropology at Bard College. Her first book, Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2019), explores what happens when waste is transformed into matter with no place to go. Her new book project investigates how Airbnb is transforming the relationship between subjectivity, property, and work in Greece. She thanks participants in the 2019 New Directions in Palestinian Studies workshop at Brown University for comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and Beshara Doumani and Alex Winder for the invitation to contribute. Amahl Bishara, Jessica Barnes, Kali Rubaii, and Caterina Scaramelli offered insights that made this better version possible.