Culture and the built environment

Between meaning and money

Authored by: David Gartman

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159

10.4324/9780203891377.ch33

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Abstract

The environment that humans construct for habitation has always been more than mere utility. From the beginning, groups have invested their domiciles and cities with meanings, making their built structures symbolic of their beliefs and values. And although the built environment may express a shared worldview, just as often it inscribes into space the divisions and inequalities of the social structure. For example, Pierre Bourdieu (1990: 271–83) argues that the spatial structure of the Kabylian house unconsciously embodies the gendered division of labor of the Berber community, thus facilitating an early apprenticeship in and acceptance of the unequal roles of men and women. And Chandra Mukerji (1997) convincingly asserts that the famous gardens of Versailles symbolically displayed the ability of the emerging absolutist state in France to impose its power on the landscape and create a sovereign territory of order and control.

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