Matthew Johnson: "A Political Ecology of the Medieval Castle"


Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Tozzer 203

Harvard Archaeology Seminar Series Presents: 


Castle studies have moved away from their military role, towards a stress on social life, aesthetics, symbolism and 'status'. While this social/cultural turn is a marked advance, it has not always been thought through in an anthropological or theorized way; nor have social/cultural interpretations been related to everyday practices. Consequently, 'social' analyses of castles have tended to be rather disembodied, and to be limited in their accounts of power and inequality. In this paper, I sketch out what a political ecology of the castle might look like, with reference to the late medieval castle of Bodiam in south-east England. I focus on how the castle and its surrounding landscape work to control, delimit and define flows -- flows of things, of animals, and of people, circulating in and around the castle and its context. Flows work at a series of different scales ranging from the position and practices of the human body within castle spaces, to the local and regional, to the networks of religion and power across Europe and beyond.