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Medieval Guildhalls as Habitus

Medieval Guildhalls as Habitus

By Kate Giles

An Archaeology of Social Identity: Guildhalls in York, c. 1350-1630. British Archaeological Reports (BAR 315). John and Erica Hedges Ltd and Archaeopress (Oxford, 2000)

Introduction: This chapter will be concerned with the archaeological and theoretical interpretation of York’s medieval guildhalls. It will present an analysis of their topographical location, chronology, form and function framed by the research agenda set out in Chapter 2, and the theoretical position outlined in Chapter 1. Bourdieu’s (1977; 1979) idea of habitus will be used to suggest that their spatial organisation was part of a wider understanding of the ways in which architecture could be used to structure individual and communal identities in medieval society. Giddens’ (1984) structuration theory will inform the interpretation of the reflexive and recursive nature of the social practices which occurred within the guildhall, as well as the analysis of the multiple ways in which dominant religious discourses were used to underpin the structuration of social and political power by particular levels of society. After considering these issues in relation to the halls, hospitals and chapels of guilds, the chapter will briefly consider their implications for the wider study of medieval urban space and civic architecture.

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