Habitus and Hexis

Habitus and hexis are two concepts developed by Pierre Bourdieu in his attempt of approaching power within the context of comprehensive theory of society. In his view, habitus is ‘the way society becomes deposited in persons in the form of lasting dispositions, or trained capacities and structured propensities to think, feel and act in determinant ways, which then guide them’ (Wacquant 2005: 316, cited in Navarro 2006: 16).

Habitus can be also applied in constructing a city identity, it can be understood as the predisposition of a city to respond to current social, economical political or even physical circumstances in a particular way, ways that can be different in other cities.

As an example we can think about the city of Coventry and how it’s bombing in the Second World War shaped the people, industry, architecture and so on. Also in our case, we can see how cities respond to the uprising of different political regimes in history.


If habitus is more an abstract concept, hexis, is the embodiment of it. In this way we can look at cities as human bodies and see the hexis as the marks that time left on the body. In the same way we tattoo our body, cities can be “tattooed” with graffiti, or we can look at a mark left by a disease on the surface of our skin and compare it with “marks” of war or perhaps communism.

The two concepts can be helpful in revealing a city identity or discover the direct appliance of history, it gives us a sense of how strong the city can be and how good can handle with different crises.

prague graffiti

Navarro, Z. (2006) ‘In Search of  Cultural Intepretation of Power’, IDS Bulletin 37(6): 11-22

Wacquant, L. (2005) Habitus. International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology. J. Becket and Z. Milan. London, Routledge

Eduard Claudiu Vasile


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