We experience places primarily in states of distraction; we live in the world first

and look at it second. Our contemplative gaze falls upon buildings and cities

within a spatial world we have already silently imbibed and embodied. How to

reconcile this unreflexive embodiment of place in everyday life with the ways in

which our critical gaze turns place into discourse? For this task I want to use the

work of Pierre Bourdieu. The ‘habitus’ and the ‘field’ are two key concepts that

form threads through Bourdieu’s sociology. The habitus is a set of embodied dis-

positions towards everyday social practice; divisions of space and time, of objects

and actions, of gender and status. The habitus conflates ‘habit’ and ‘habitat’ to

construct both a sense of place and the sense of one’s place in a social hierarchy

(Bourdieu 1977). The habitus is taken for granted: ‘The most successful ideo-

logical effects are those that have no words, and ask no more than complicitous

silence’ (Bourdieu 1977: 188). While the use of the term ‘ideology’ now seems

dated, the role of place as a taken-for-granted construction of everyday life

remains a key to the ways power is mediated in built form. Bourdieu’s later work

on ‘fields’ of cultural production examines overlapping fields of discourse (art,

architecture, urbanism) which are like game boards with certain forces prevailing

and resources at stake (Bourdieu 1993). The resources are forms of capital that

flow between the economic (material) and the cultural (social, symbolic). For

Bourdieu, fields of cultural production, such as architecture, are structured in a

manner which sustains the authority of those who already possess it, those with

the ‘cultural capital’ and the ‘feel for the game’ embodied in the habitus.