Liminality: reflecting from the threshold

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In this paper I argue that the very notion of crisis – in its social, political and economic dimensions – can best be captured with a term developed by anthropologists in their comparative study of ritual forms: liminality. Liminality was first introduced into the social sciences by the French thinker, Arnold van Gennep, in his 1909 publication, Rites of Passage. Liminality derives from the Latin limen and literally concerns the experience of standing at a threshold, forced to make choices, but with no background structures from where to do so. Liminality denotes a situation where human beings are removed from previous structures, identities and ontological certainties, pushed to the edge, with no easily defined certainties on the immediate horizon - a genuine limbo fueled with anxiety but also a situation of pure potentiality, fostering creativity. While stemming from human experiences of circumscribed ritual passages (such as the ones undergone by a boy in his passage to manhood), it will be argued that exactly such liminal figurations can illuminate the way in which larger groups or even civilizations live through a crisis and seek to react to it - sometimes exacerbating the problems addressed, rather than providing conclusions. In conclusion, the idea that modernity is at its very core a peculiar kind of ‘permanent liminality’ will be discussed, also with an aim to contextualize understandings of what we may mean by ‘crisis’ in the current situation.
Publikationsdato15 sep. 2016
StatusUdgivet - 15 sep. 2016
BegivenhedThe 19th International Conference on Conceptual History: Key Concepts in Times of Crisis - Aarhus University , Aarhus, Danmark
Varighed: 14 sep. 201616 sep. 2016


KonferenceThe 19th International Conference on Conceptual History
LokationAarhus University

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