People, Places and Possessions
Edited By Antony Buxton, Linda Hulin and Jane Anderson
Central to human life and experience, habitation forms a context for enquiry within many disciplines. This collection brings together perspectives on human habitation in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, social history, material culture, literature, art and design, and architecture. Significant shared themes are the physical and social structuring of space, practice and agency, consumption and gender, and permanence and impermanence. Topics range from archaeological artefacts to architectural concepts, from Romano-British consumption to the 1950s Playboy apartment, from historical elite habitation to present-day homelessness, from dwelling «on the move» to the crisis of household dissolution, and from interior design to installation art. Not only is this volume a rich resource of varied aspects and contexts of habitation, it also provides compelling examples of the potential for interdisciplinary conversations around significant shared themes.
Afterword (Frances F. Berdan)
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FRANCES F. BERDAN
There are few things more basic in human life than habitation. Humans everywhere define meaningful spaces for themselves. They construct spaces. They embellish them, and they place values (positive, negative, or more nuanced) on them. People carry out activities in and around these spaces. People establish, cement and nullify relationships, go through prescribed life cycles, and amplify their own idiosyncracies … all in the context of natural and constructed habitations. Throughout prehistory and history we have occupied and transformed spaces. In turn, these transformed spaces have delineated and influenced our movements, activities, relationships and outlooks. In the broad view, human-built and human-occupied spaces embody our amazingly diverse ways of looking at the world as well as facilitate (or constrain) our strategies for surviving and thriving in it.
From the perspective of an anthropologist, an exploration into the nature, structure, meanings and dynamics of habitation is a particularly worthwhile, intellectual and practical pursuit. As explained by the editors in the introduction to this volume, habitation consists of the complex and mutable interplay among place, objects, actions, relationships and values. It is culture in its physical and ideological context, echoing the subtitle of this book, ‘people, places, and possessions’. Sometimes habitats emerge as harmonious and rational, sometimes confusing and jumbled, sometimes contradictory. It’s complicated. It’s human. But it is not unfathomable.
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