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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.

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6. Feasts and Triumphs: The Structural Dynamic of Elite Social Status in the English Country House (Antony Buxton)


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6 Feasts and Triumphs: The Structural Dynamic of Elite Social Status in the English Country House


This chapter seeks to explore the manner in which social status is expressed through the structuring of space, in the distinction between the external context and the habitation, in the differentiation of constructed space (with reference to Lefebvre and Bourdieu) and in movement between differentiated spaces within the dwelling (Merleau-Ponty). The English ‘country house’ offers a rich comparative case study over four centuries, and demonstrates the manner in which the physical structuring of the elite social dynamic reflects both domestic group relationships within the habitation and the values of the wider society. Whilst the country house could be seen as an attempted perpetuation of existing expressions of status, changes in that external culture – arguably ultimately generated by control and productive exploitation of assets and concomitant changes in social relationships and hierarchies of power – are reflected in modification to the structuring and consequent social dynamic of the country house. The country house and its spatial-social dynamic can therefore be seen as demonstrations of responses to the changing conditions of modernity.

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