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Anthropologists have given copious attention to problems of exchange, of giving and receiving. Yet problems of taking, unequal accumulation, secret storage, predation, and refusal to share are no less central to social life. This is certainly the case among Jordanian Bedouin, whose notions of hospitality are a complex blend of reciprocity, protection, and coercive extraction. The families of dominant tribal shaykhs are often known for their ability to take, to store away wealth, and to protect hordes of found and inherited treasure, both magical and mundane. By reading the oral historical traditions of the Balga tribes against familiar Maussian ideas and the models of parasitism suggested by Michel Serres, this chapter argues that hospitality, as Bedouin know it, is constructed in ways that resist the romanticism that besets anthropological portraits of “pre-capitalist” and “premodern” gift economies. The parasite is everywhere in social life, in past and present. If Serres is correct and parasitism precedes the gift and provokes gift-giving and hosting as a defensive response, it follows that moral economy will always evolve in dialogue with parasites and what they take. The results of this interaction, in the Balga of Jordan and in most other places, can be miraculous.

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