Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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A Bourdieusian Framework for Understanding Public Space Heritage Transformations: Riga’s Castle Square

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Abstract:  The article investigates how Bourdieu’s theory of practice can be mobilized to analyse the micro landscape of decision-making in urban practice, framing it by means of the concept of habitus. The reconstruction of the Riga Castle Square in the UNESCO-protected area is used as a case study. Using the vocabulary of habitus-related concepts—illusio, doxa, and hysteresis—an attempt is made to trace the interrelations between the motivations and actions of professionals involved in the project and their influence on the outcomes. This article assumes that the symbolic significance of a place causes symbolic space, understood as a grid of cognitive structures guiding agents in their choices, to become salient. When representative public spaces are transformed, the symbolic space imposes on social and physical spaces through the symbolic forms of power used by specialists. In conclusion, the article offers an interpretation of heritage as a manifestation of habitus: Public space thus exemplifies a social interface, expressing interplay between traditional and emerging values. The findings reinforce the relevance of the theory of practice for researching non-physical phenomena of urban practice. The concept of habitus supports the conceptualization of urban planning practice as assemblages of diverse interdependent interactional settings where fraternities of practice communities communicate around values. This communication defines motivations and determines decisions, shaping physical space. The theory of practice helps decompose the micro-level of socio-psychological dynamics underlying stakeholders’ decision-making and to relate it to macro phenomena, such as power distribution or participation.

Keywords:  Bourdieu; habitus; heritage; public space; Riga Castle Square; urban project


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© Helena Gutmane. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.