Primary Source Blog

The focus of my primary source blog is the term Habitus, that was coined by the French philosopher, sociologist, and anthropologist. One of his primarily work focused on the dynamics of power in society. Habitus is a mechanism for operation of power in society as it refers to a mental construct consisting of a set of social expectations within a particular group. Habitus is a learned social concept, it is not an individual concept, as mentioned in class and many of the readings, it is an unconscious practical logic (Farnell, 2000: 399). I believe it is an important concept to dwell upon as it presents an anomaly of perspective depending on space and place.


Habitus is constantly interconnected to structure and agency where both rest within the Habitus, shaping one another. Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their free choices while the structure is formed by peoples view of the world and how we experience it. Habitus is defined as a “socially constituted system of cognitive and motivating structures…in which the agent’s interests are represented without consciousness or will” (Dornan, 2002: 306). Beginning with the concept of Habitus, it first originated in tandem with the porto-structural anthropology of Durkheim and  Mauss and the post- Sausserian structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss (Lizardo, 2004: 376). It is composed of two aspects, the perceptual and classifying, and the practical action. The first of the two is connected to the earlier scholar mentioned; whereas, the second is practical and does not connect well with social theory lineages, as it moves beyond Hussar’s phenomenology (Lizardo, 2004: 379)


The concept of Habitus is guided by historical knowledge as it came from earlier approaches; it follows the past processes as it guides and shapes the future. An example mentioned in class was the analogy of the chair. There is a purpose for the chair. People sit on it with their two feet facing downwards. From a very young age, you are taught to stand straight in an upward position. Furthermore, you are given toys and various other things that help you unconsciously understand how to do things or react to certain objects. It is not something that is consciously taught but guided by the society in which we live. In lieu, many other factors and situations in time and space allow for us to react in similar ways. There may be circumstances that ask for you to act in particular ways. Depending on the culture one is from individuals will act in similar ways as an automatic response. It may look bizarre to some, but entirely acceptable to others. However, if a particular person acts out of the norm, then it is seen as strange because most people from the same culture do things in a shared pattern.

Concerning an archaeological setting, another example is that of the Berber House. The house is fundamentally divided by the homologous opposition. Space itself is divided into male and female, fire and water, dark and live and many other patterns of activities that are all in opposition with one another (Sewell, 1992, p. 14). These are all examples of underlying schemas. Bourdieu argues that the mental structure that constructs the world of objects themselves are built in the practice according to the same structure (Sewell, 1992, p. 14).  As a result, Bourdieu’s theory of practice recognizes that the reproduction of schemas are what he calls Habitus (Sewell, 1992, p. 15). The Berber house article (1970), mentions that “Man is the lamp of the outside and woman the lamp of the inside” these are set stone and passed down as traditions that one follows (Bourdieu, 140). Thus, there is no questioning about the different spaces and why they are fundamentally divided in such ways. However, it is unconsciously accepted that there are certain modes of living within the Kabyle house. Furthermore, the unquestioned tradition is not broken but continued culturally across time.

Community’s habits can be shaped by the past circumstances that were handed down through different generations through the use of wisdom and sayings (Ucko and Layton, 1999: 7). Habits thus enable people to endure changing situations because they have a set of learnt common principles that help them during their unforeseen circumstances. These practices may sometimes leave its mark on the landscape. An example is if there is an environmental crisis, but because of the availability of one’s habitus they population can survive the circumstance. The community as a whole may have built a structure, or there is evidence left from the environmental crisis at a given point in time then future populations can look at the structure from the past and adapt to the crisis in similar ways. There is a transfer of knowledge over successive generations as the patterns of reference become habitual, and archaeologist is also able to learn from the habits and structure (Ucko and Layton, 1999: 12).

Habitus produces practice and representation, and it implies a sense of one’s place, but also a sense of place of others (Bourdieu, 1989: 9). It produces practices and representations that are objectively differentiated. Therefore, it implies that there are agents that classify themselves, through their choice and things that suit their position and status in society (Bourdieu, 1989:19). There is a sense of social space associated with the symbolic power. Therefore, nothing classifies a way in which one classifies themselves. Hence, the practices and positions in social space can be identified through our habitus as we can obtain and correspond to these practices and have the common sense to understand the different views and how it works across the social space.

Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Berber House or the World Reversed.” Social Science Information 9, no.2 (1970):132-141.

Bourdieu, Pierre. “Social space and symbolic power.” Sociological theory 7, no. 1 (1989): 14-25.

Dornan, Jennifer L. “Agency and archaeology: Past, present, and future directions.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 9, no. 4 (2002): 303-329.

Farnell, Brenda. “Getting out of the habitus: an alternative model of dynamically embodied social action.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6, no. 3 (2000): 397-418.

Lizardo, Omar. “The cognitive origins of Bourdieu’s habitus.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 34, no. 4 (2004): 375-401.

Sewell Jr, William H. “A theory of structure: Duality, agency, and transformation.” American journal of sociology (1992): 1-29.

Ucko, Peter J., and Robert Layton. “The archaeology and anthropology of landscape.” Shaping Your Landscape. London [ua]: Routledge (1999).

People’s engagement with the Landscape


“People’s engagement with the material world -not- only works between fields of knowledge, but also incorporates everyday life and contemporary politics, and highlights institutional constraints” (Bender, 1998 p.125). This quote struck as I read this week’s reading and on a side note was distracted by looking at images of visual constructs and landscapes that we come across in our daily lives, specifically looking at sites I have recently visited. When visualizing a UNESCO Heritage site, famous buildings, towers, and other forms of landscape. In general, there are brief summaries of the site mentioned. However, we tend not to focus on those as general audiences and tourist, unless we are truly interested in the history of the place. The reading by Bender argues that there are individuals who feel passionate and differently about a site (1998). I agree, it is true, but each on its own has different meanings associated with the site. It may not always be based on the history of the site alone, but many times it is based on one’s history pertaining to the site.

The past has a way of preserving in our lives at the present and all the changes throughout has occurred due to the innovation and diffusion (Bender, 1998). We as individuals and communities seek to define ourselves in various ways, and one of the most prominent is evident in the landscape. It is recorded into the landscapes and can be traced back to the Renaissance, development of capitalism, and the emergence of world systems (Kealhofer, 1999). Upton argues, architecture is a structured experience, used to manipulate time and consciousness which can extend to the landscapes (Kealhofer, 1999). This analysis can be deconstructed in multiple ways. It is not only restricted to who made the landscape, but how the construction of the landscape came about and for what reasons. Also, during the early Colonial period, the goal was to not only to define themselves, rather a context of the landscape and its social, economic and political meanings. These ties have developed over generations, and the changes can be seen in pockets and areas of the landscape, but not entirely in the first glance. An example, when we visualize New York City we do not think about the background story of how the building was created. In New York City, there is Uptown, Downtown, the city, the suburbs and better known, the centre as Manhattan. Each has a very different look and was created during different eras by different individuals. In recent years, there was a New York African American Burial Ground discovered, mentioned by Dr. Roddick in 2PA3. However, this burial ground was located in the outside walls of the city. There are questions we can articulate from this. Why were they located outside the city walls, what were their roles in the society, gender issues, racial issues, the struggle for human rights and so forth. We see these types of creations and barriers all over the world. The colonization effects, the use of bonded servants for cheap and intensive labour. However, these economic and political stances cultivate the society in being what we see it today. We tend only to see the landscape as scenery and fail to negotiate it with meanings of the past and the culture history. We need to go beyond the evidence of what we see visually and recognize that “the evidence does not of itself deliver an understanding, and it is open to multiple number of interpretations” (Bender, 1998, p.7).

One of the industries mentioned in the reading was that of the Tobacco production. It was one of the sources that lead to the economic development. During the seventeenth century, the production of tobacco sales expanded and declined. This shows how it had an impact on the population. It was more than a full-time job and moved well into the seventeenth century. However, production declined, and they needed other sources of workers. Thus, they chose the slaves (Kealhofer, 1999). They were an integral part of the industry, without them, the plantation owners could not compete, nor stabilize the work that needed to be done. In the process, the indigenous groups were affected due to the needs of the colonizers. There were specific locations the English forged (Kealhofer, 1999). Thus, the same landscape will have different meanings for the English, the Indigenous groups and the slaves. Likewise, the concept of the House and the Garden has different meanings. Embedded in the landscape are people’s culture and history. In the New Archaeology reading by Johnson (2010), there was an image of the present and the past. It framed the idea that we see the past through our eyes, contemporary ideas, attitudes and assumptions and not the eye of the prehistoric (p.14). Thus, the house and garden have different meanings. The identity is constructed by the domestic spatial separation. Green Spring has an elite colonial identity based on the look, like many buildings in the past were not created by brick and sandstone (Bender, 1998). Therefore, it is documented and reflects the English circle and elaborate forms of transition to permanent architecture. It was a form of status and capital. Like, slavery became a part of the economic system. Today we would not associate the garden with an elite identity, rather we have different forms of identifying things. The relationship between the landscape is therefore incorporated in everyday life, and contemporary politics and the landscape remains as evidence of the various changes.


Bender, B 

1998 Introduction: Time, Place and People. In: Stonehenge, Making Space, pp. 1-23

Johnson, M

2010 The ‘New Archaeology’. In: Archaeological Theory: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell Journals, pp. 12-34.

Kealhofer, L

1999 Creating social identity in the landscape: Tidewater, Virginia, 1600–1750, Archaeologies of Landscape: Contemporary Perspectives edited by edited by Wendy Ashmore and Bernard Knapp, pp. 58-82. Wiley Blackwell Malden, MA.