Changes in the landscape during the transition from feudalism to capitalism: A case study of Montblanc, Catalonia, Spain
This dissertation examines how space contributes to the creation and maintenance of social stratification. Space is understood to both constitute the context in which human behavior takes place and forms a part of its content. My examination of the transition from feudalism to capitalism illuminates how the material dimensions of landscapes serve to embody and reflect social meaning. Changing spatial relations define social distinctions based on class and gender and reinforce people's ideological understanding of where they belong in the social and physical world. Socially constructed landscapes play an active role in shaping and reproducing economic, political and ideological relations, in effect, the basic constituents of social life.
The conceptual framework developed in this dissertation stresses the dialectical relationship between social action and social structure. Social structure is understood as being produced and reproduced through social action by individuals and groups; social structure, however, also serves to constitute and constrain social action. The focus in this dissertation is on the construction, use and maintenance of the built environment. The relationship between human behavior and the built environment is traced by examining the production and flow of social surplus as evident in its spatial manifestations and articulations.
Specifically, I examine how space is used to mediate social stratification in the medieval town of Montblanc during the 18th and early 19th centuries. This study proceeds along three scales of analysis: (1) a regional approach to changing spatial boundaries at the level of Catalonia; (2) the overall transformation of the agricultural landscape and townscape; (3) and the transformation of specific structures as recorded in building biographies.
Social stratification, class domination, and even resistance are evident in landscapes of the past. The built environment changed in ways that embodied and expressed societal and individual conceptions of space in accordance with socioeconomic variables during the transition from feudalism to capitalism. From this analysis of the socioeconomic and spatial circumstances in which one form of social organization was replaced by another, I offer an interpretation of how and why it occurred. The insights gained from this research offer additional understanding of how space is used and manipulated in different historical contexts.
0326: Cultural anthropology