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Urbanity by its ‘smallest units’. Comments on ‘performing towns’

  • Sven Kalmring

Any reader expecting yet another contribution on the urbanization of Scandinavia will be misguided reading Axel Christophersen's contribution on ‘performing towns’. As the author makes very clear, he focuses on urbanity in the sense of urban social practice rather than on urbanization itself. The latter concept is straightforwardly dismissed as belonging to processual archaeology, and was trying to understand the town as a being structure and neglecting the dynamic role of its individual inhabitants as a ‘crucial historical driving force’ (p. 110). Christophersen also omits the classic discussion – actually besides Christianization one of the two most prominent topics in early medieval archaeology – on the designation and character of the earliest towns in the north, where early towns are merely defined as population centres ‘larger than a village and smaller than a city’ (p. 112). Instead, with the adoption of practice theory, Christophersen picks one heuristic approach from modern social theory (mentalism (subjectivistic/objectivistic), intersubjectivism, textualism and practice theory itself) for the analysis of social phenomena as routinized body/knowledge/things complexes (Reckwitz 2002, 257–58).

Corresponding author
*Sven Kalmring, Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig, Germany. E-mail:
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Archaeological Dialogues
  • ISSN: 1380-2038
  • EISSN: 1478-2294
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