Household Matter(s): Things in the Medieval Home
The household was the core economic and social unit of medieval England. In this talk I will explore the household as more than a group of people, but as an emergent and fluid assemblage of relations between people, objects and space. Drawing on the results of the interdisciplinary research project ‘Living Standards and Material Culture in English Rural Households, 1300-1600’ I will map some of the affective webs of material linkages out of which particular forms of medieval household emerged. Understanding the household as an assemblage allows us to consider how relations with objects created distinctive and unique compositions, providing a route to engaging with the heterogeneity of domestic experience. I will consider how objects mediated links between the domestic, religious and economic spheres, blurring boundaries and de-stabilising ideas about the organisation of medieval society into distinct spheres of ‘working’, ‘praying’ and ‘fighting’. In doing so, I will also explore how medieval people were confronted by and harnessed the vibrancy of material things, to negotiate forms of selfhood and power, to see objects not as possessions, but as fundamental ‘actors’ in everyday life.
Dr Ben Jervis is lecturer in Archaeology at Cardiff University, UK. He is a specialist in the archaeology and material culture of medieval England and has published widely on topics including consumption, ceramics and urban development. His work is influenced by new materialist approaches such as Actor-Network Theory and Assemblage Thought, the latter being the topic of his most recent book Assemblage Thought and Archaeology. He is currently engaged in a 3-year interdisciplinary research project (with Dr Chris Briggs, University of Cambridge) entitled Living Standards and Material Culture in English Rural Households, 1300-1600, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This project draws on archaeological and historical evidence to examine the possessions of medieval non-elite households.