Modes of Production and Reproduction in Egyptian Villages

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In this essay, I consider the rural Romano-Egyptian house in its social functions. I begin from the premise that houses provided the material environment for the social practices of the everyday, practices which ensured social production and reproduction over the short and long term. I approach the problem as one of microhistory, making the ideological assumption that society is generated in multiple engagements through which social power is manifested. The house was the scene of the economic, social and biological processes by which the familial unit was reproduced from day-to-day, year-to-year and generation to generation. In circumstances of poverty, close control over familial resources (people and property) was essential. The functional importance of familial units accounts for their social power. Any individual (male or female) required a familial unit. The familial unit was productive of livelihoods and social relationships, established social status, and defended individuals in the competitive environment of the village. The power structure of the familial unit looked inwards and outwards. On the inside, it managed social relationships and took the decisions, working within economic, demographic and cultural constraints, to give shape to the household. On the outside, the unit was competitive with other similar units and necessarily had to engage with political and administrative structures. The house was a topographical centre for the functioning of a familial unit, but it was not a boundary that limited and contained those activities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHouseholds in Context:
Subtitle of host publicationDwelling in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt
EditorsCaitlin Ellis Barrett, Jennifer C. Carrington
Place of PublicationIthaca
PublisherCornell University Press
Publication statusSubmitted - 9 Jun 2020


  • Egypt
  • House
  • household
  • family
  • production
  • Roman
  • imperialism
  • reproduction
  • marriage
  • archaeology
  • papyrology

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