The hierarchy of roles decreases not only through the

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tive status has not changed since the last visit. The hierarchy of roles decreases not only through the exchange of greetings, but also through hugs and handshakes. These gestures epitomize the acceptance of a con-tract or an agreement on both sides, most clearly illustrated by the shaking of hands to confirm a business deal or by the kiss sealing a wedding ceremony. The represen-tation of this contract between visitor and resident depends on their relationship and on the time elapsed since their last encounter. Another way of balancing positions is the presentation of a gift by the visitor: flow-ers, sweets, or a dessert, which are "bartered" against the invitation to come into the 57
Celine Rosselin apartment. Gift exchange belongs to the logic of social transactions as described by Marcel Mauss ( [ 1923]1990) and involves a sequence of obligations and expectations: gift giving, accepting, and returning. The host has the obligation not only to accept the visitor's gift, but also to give a present at a return visit. As a marginal zone, the hall is also a purification area. According to Mary Douglas (1979) marginal zones are intrinsically dangerous because of their ambiguous, in-between character. Some objects in the hall play a part in the rituals of purification, in order to neutralize the danger of ambiguity and impurity. For example, there are often two floor mats: the first one can be found in front of the entrance door, and the second one in the hall itself. People wipe their shoes on the first and take them off on the second one. Shoes and other objects defiled by the public space, like coats, hats, umbrellas, shopping bags, and leisure equipment, are often left behind in the hall. Looking in the hall's mirror and correcting one's appearance either before leaving the house or before entering the living room are also purifying acts. Neutrality and pu-rity are both conditions for transition. Transition and Temporality The transitional character of the hall, the area where people are not meant to stay, gives a special temporality to the actions performed there. For example, the look in the hall's mirror has to be cursory, in contrast to the more intimate and elaborate in-spection of one's appearance in the mirror of the bathroom or the bedroom. The greeting and welcoming of guests are also dictated by temporality, for they are pro-gressive stages in the transition process. They are followed by the invitation to take off the coat and by preparation of the guest for the final stage: the entrance into the more intimate space of the apartment. In this final stage the conversation also switches from formal language to more personal topics. Entering and leaving, especially by visitors, can be interpreted as so-called rituals of passage, which involve not only a progressive spatial transition but also a change of status. Generally speaking, the hall allows the transition from one status to another.

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