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Extensive, economical and elegant : the habitus of gentility in early nineteenth century Sydney
journal contributionposted on 2004-10-01, 00:00 authored by Linda YoungLinda Young
This paper challenges the modern expectation that mahogany furniture and silver cutlery were self-evident indicators of gentry status in colonial Sydney through close analysis of a bundle of middle class household inventories of the 1840s. They are considered as evidence of habitus--the structuring interaction of mentality with the material world--in order to demonstrate the active principle of consumption in the claim or assertion of bourgeois standing, which was particularly lively in the colony. A range of competences can he seen in the practice of gentility, which suggests that the possession of rosewood rather than mahogany, or imitation silver rather than sterling, was a variation shaped not merely by wealth but by cultural capital. This exposes strands of contingency, competition and compromise in middle class expression.