Thursday, 15 November 2012

Dwelling and Habitus - Unifying the objective and subjective

The following paragraphs and diagrams are my first tentative steps toward a (hopefully) unified architectural sociology and a way forward into my research. The more I read about Pierre Bourdieu the more I see how I have misunderstood some of his terms (most notably that of 'the field') and unwittingly appropriated them for my own means. Now I am aware of this I can either embrace his definitions or accept them as a jumping off point for my own theorising.

The work of Heidegger has influenced architects since his work directly addressed architecture in the early 1950s. His description of subjectivity, I believe, is what has led to the nihilist stance of many of the postmodern designers of the 1970s and 80s. The ideas of ‘unplan’ and ‘equipotential space,’ while intriguing, have not helped us better understand how to design for a heterogenous society.

Sociologists have noted this trend within their own field, referring to this subjectivity as ‘reflexivity.’ Alternatively, sociologist Pierre Bourdieu developed the model of ‘Habitus’ to deal with how human beings subscribe to notions of collectivity and society. Recently, sociology has been attempting to deal with these two distinct models. It is becoming clear that a process of hybridisation is required to create a more complete, and ultimately more helpful, model of humans and society.

The individual’s (Dasein) world is comprised of projects which are made up of things, as distinguished from mere objects as they are defined and understood through use and their relationship to other things. These things are utilised by Dasein subjectively and of the moment, using them as she/he sees fit within a given project/context. Projects allow Dasein to shape his/her world, this shaping is referred to as ‘dwelling.’

The Habitus is a set of scripts (or habits) which are employed my Dasein as templates for projects. Dasein subscribes to several Habituses and as he/she goes about dwelling she/he will refer to the relevant Habitus to dwell in the ‘correct’ (efficient, moral, ethical) way. Habitus, then, can be said to be made up of a pantheon of Platonic projects we refer to as practices.

Dwelling and Habitus
On one hand there is the Habitus, a deterministic model of ‘how to act’; on the other hand there is Dwelling, a model of free-will and endless interpretation. Habitus is employed unconsciously and ensures that each new project encountered, Dasein has a precedent, a guide to doing things ‘correctly.’ Dwelling enables this model to be questioned, challenged and employed/adjusted creatively. Sociologists refer to this creative process as ‘reflexivity.’
Dwelling, Habitus and the Field
There is however, another factor to consider, that of the ‘field.’ The field refers to the external environment and the limits of possibility contained within it. Dasein has an ability to expand their world through reflexivity, however, this can only occur within the limits of the field. Reflexivity, therefore, is an ability to express a desire beyond the world as opposed to actually achieving it. 

Dwelling, Habitus, the Field and Power
Problems arise between different Habituses when two or more conflicting Habituses manifest themselves within the same spatiality. This will either lead to compromise or conflict. Conflict tends to create a sense of hubris and excessive defensiveness in each Habitus, causing the practices within it to become dogmas.

The constraints of the field will inevitably lead to one Habitus being able to control the field, or at least the position of individuals and other Habituses within the field, determining the reflexive mobility of others, usually to maintain their own status quo and increase their own power.

Dwelling, Habitus, the Field and Power in Belfast
I propose a mapping of the city centre examining the different Habituses at work. This would entail an initial mapping of the ‘obvious’ structures of Belfast; tribalism, memorialism, adjusted infrastructure, ‘gentrification’/’urban renaissance’ and demography. 

Using this as a tool and the social/mind model described above I hope to develop a more complex mapping of Belfast’s dominating and dominated Habituses and modes of dwelling to understand how they impact on each other, physical planning and life within the city.

1 comment:

  1. yes, generally good but do not rush to look at Habituses ! at work, look again at the definition of the habitus and note the practice, script, use and system that is held together by the individuals considering as you say things rather than mere objects, so there is no point you, as a non daseiner in the case of dasein considering a mere object as a thing just because dasein so considers the thing to be a think rather than an object, that fact is obviously important but the thing plays a part in her script, her dwelling, and not yours, and for you the thing is a mere object, so do not rush to the spatial and thus inevitably mechanical conclusion, leave that to UCL