Perception and performance of social identity in the nascent urban societies of the high middle ages

Perceptie en performance van sociale identiteit in de vroege stedelijke samenlevingen tijdens de volle middeleeuwen
Start - End 
2012 - 2017 (ongoing)
Department of History
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This project aims to undertake a cultural historical approach to the perception and performance of social identity in the nascent urban societies of Northern France and the Southern Low Countries between the eleventh and early thirteenth centuries. Due to the relative paucity of written materials produced by urban groups themselves, we will focus especially on the question, not of how new groups emerged, but how they became conscious of themselves and were recognised by others. What types of behaviour, rituals, and other cultural expressions described in our sources signalled their existence and how were they perceived in conflictual situations? This research will start from an inventory of the ‘social vocabulary’ in a broad selection of texts belonging to various genres (narrative histories, miracle stories, poems and romances, charters, and so on) in an effort to discern the representation of groups and individuals, urban activities, rituals, and human interactions. This inventory of the ‘social vocabulary’ will form the basis for a number of case studies in which we will focus on three, closely related themes: (1) specific constructions of space and time, (2) ceremonies and performative behaviour and (3) emotional displays.




Phd Student(s)



Walter Simons

Dartmouth College, NH

Jeff Rider

Wesleyan University, CT