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Revisiting liminality
The danger of empty spaces
Bjorn Thomassent

Ner er befbre in the histolr of the rrorld hate uon-places occupied so nrttclr
space.

(Benko and Strohrnal er 1997: 23)

Introduction
Liminal spaces are attractive. They are the places we go to in search ol a break
lron the non.nal. They can be real places, parts ol a larger territory, or they can
be imagined or dreamed. Liminal landscapes are found at the fringes, at the
limits. I{owever, there is more to it than that. Had rve just been talking abor-rt the
peripheral, or the far-away, we would be dealing with marginality: that which is
the furthest away fiom the centre. Lirninal landscapes are in-between spaces.
Seasides anC beaches are arcl-retypical liminal landscapes. The seaside is something more than just the end of dry and inhabited land: it is a coast/ine with
something on the other side of the threshold. Limrnality implicates the existence
of a boundary, a limes, the Latin rvord for threshold lrom which the concept of
limitality derives. This limit is not sirnply there: it is there to be conlronted. The
ancierrt Creeks had tw'o words for the sea. Pelagos u,as the standard word used
to refer to the sea as a simple 'tAcL'. Pontos indicated something else: it was the
sea facing the human being, a trial to overcolne, a thresirold to pass, an open sea
to be clossed, a danger, a challenge. The etl,mology speaks to this, as ponlos'
belongs to a group of signilicant words rvith roots in Proto-Indo-European
(xpent)'to go, to pass; path, bridge', also related Io poteo'I step'. When asked
who were the most numerous, the living or the dead, Anacharsis (the sixth
centrlry BC Scythian sage) is supposed to have retorted, 'u,here. do vou plrce
those who are sailing the seas?' (as quotcd in Endsjo, 2000: 370).
Thc Clccks kncrr rerl rrell that the rniddle stage in a ritual passage had its
orvn spatial reality. The Atheniat epltebes (neopliytes) were sent out Lo the
LincLLlLivaLcd mountainsides to have their civic statr-rs altered in a rite of passage.
Mythology confirmed geography: the adolescent Odysseus rvas sent to the
nountain slopes of Parnassus to undergo his rite of passagc to manhood. with
Autoly,cus, his materr.ral grandf-ather, acting as ceremony rnaster (Endsjo

whereuP the order of ce any societY. quite literally. When the neophl4es were thrown into the ritual passage. crucial liminal spaces where shamanistic ekstases occurred. will be discussed. 'Caves have been. followed by a discussion of current applications of the liminality concept which will end on a warning note: that the very dominant tendency in postmodern and poststructuralist literature to take a celebratory stance toward the 'interstitial' is a critical development that does not really enable our analysis of ii-niinatity and that does not. This is especially the cas-e as the term is ilcreasrngly used to talk about almost 6nything. My discussion will deparl from a short introduction to the concept of liminality via Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. let alone answered. rites of incorPc sal: all societie The univers pological ciair good reasons tr would becomt Gennep was n the Durkhemi approach (for It was Vict. For the Maya. This revival takes place 100 years after the concept was introduced by the French anthropologist. the work of the contemporary social theorist. (Turner 1985: almost by cha in a liminal st waiting for hi armed militan at Hastings ol 1985: 7). It is now a well-accepted hypothesis that cave paintings. The Ndembu that Tumer studied for so many years also knew their liminal geography. A typology of liminal experiences will be presented. in taking up the concept of liminality today we have to step carefully. caves were the entrances to the underworld. Caves were certainly used for funerary and ritual purposes in the majority of Neolithic cultures. Liminal spaces are evidently part of any culture. and order. Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic caves typically took the shape of dangerous passage ways. Arnold van Gennep. 1964. Arpad Szakolczai. pay respect to the original analysis offered by van Gennep. This w< In his ana ritual passagt make-up. While it is to the merit of Victor Turner that we can think with liminality. Th . In this context. 1 his fieldwork. I will instead argue that Turner's own observation that liminal states may at times become institutionalized provides a key toward understanding both temporal and spatial liminality in modemity. Van G Turner: 'soci Van GenneP' The history of a concept: from Arnold van Gennep to Victor alist paradign Turner The concept of liminality is today experiencing a revival. I argue that Victor Tutrter's proposal to see the modern world as 'liminoid' is not the best starting point in our attempts to capture the role of liminal space in the world of today. Rather than answering the question. 'Western' and 'modem' societies? Such a question is much too big to be addressed. va sisting of three rites of incorPc liminal p?ii?g. For a variety of Stone Age peoples caves almost surely functioned as spaces of liminality (Bamatt and Edmonds 2002). Thomassen 2000: 358). must be interpreted as being part olritual passages and actual liminal experiences. not pyramids. and brought them to a sacred site where they were subjected to a series of tests and personality transforming ordeals. in many cultures. It is likely that these passage-type caves represented passages to another world: the world of the gods or/and the world of the dead. the aim will be to search for a meaningful formulation of the problem. Types of lir In Tumer's c or object. Zes Rites de Passage. The purpose of this chapter is to open up a question: what is happening to liminal spaces in contemporary. ultimately.22 I B. this happened initially by a spatial separation from their village as the ceremony master took them into the wildemess. in an indeed remarkable book. such as the famous ones at Lascaux. Tun Turner exPeri reading inspir Liminal Peno The Forest o. in a single chapter.[e_{ 1n !9 meaningful clas mark the passa from those wh year). bringing humans into contact with the spirits or the beyond. pub!r!.

uses of rhe concelt beyond 23 .nrec passages to another r rao. *-- lLaves \have been. Types of liminality In Tumer's own words.fu.-Sd rer than answering the ulation of the problem. quite . must be inal experiences.ontemporarv.--. in ekstases occurred. Upper paleolithic passage ways. During Gennep via the work of Henri Junoi experien. e concept of liminalitv of liminal d the importance of liminality. Rites de passage._ concept of limime case as the term is argue it6:Tum.b. Arpad to Victor This revival takes ch anthropolggist.. y flmctioned as spaces certainly used for funer_ hres.i". this village as the ceremony to a sacred site where transforming ordeals. is much too 'uid io.Revisitingliminality years also knew their into the ritual passage.- institutionalized spatial liminalify in social theorist. For the Maya.o"irto'. liminality refers ro any ojgbjecr' This undersranaine .etwixr and betweeql situariop opJnr. caves ls now a weil-accepted rs at Lascaux. puryose of this chapter spaces ul _c. rd.es ications of the limivery dominant tend_ a celebratory stance not really enable our respect to the original s proposal to see the int in our attempts to ile it is to the merit of up the .

Moreover. of course. months. van Gennep even indicated that perhaps the physical passage of a threshold somehow pre ceded the rites that demarcate a symbolic or 'spiritual' passage: 'A rite of spatial passage has become a rite of spiritual passage' (van Gennep 1960:22).. Moreover. or whole societies.? o E Dimensions of spatial liminality Applications of the concept of liminality have arguably privileged the temporal dimension. Single moments. 1 2 3 single individuals social groups (e. while this scheme identifies types of liminal experience.24 B. or even whole epochs can be considered liminal. as studied in the work of van Gennep. the title of Chapter II which followed immediately upon his initial classification of rites. maybe even 'civilizations' The temporal dimension of liminality can relate to: 1 2 3 moments (sudden events) periods (weeks. arguably even centuries) These different dimensions can function together in a variety of combinations as indicated in this model: Model 1. be stressed that these are analytical distinctions of a somewhat arbitrary nature. or maybe even civilizations. but he also included demarcations ol tribal societies. experiences of liminality can be related to three different Iypes of subjecthood. Thomassen Turner's own suggestions. In other G oE o a o O O xO ad tr .g.at least not the same kind of clearly recognizable and institutionalized rites with identiflable ceremony masters. tr . cohorts. There is no definitive way of distinguishing 'moments' from 'periods'. it by no means follows that all these experiences are demarcated with a transition rite . generations. and neutral zones belween countries and larger civilizations. entire populations. and the dimensions invoked could also be thought of as a continuum. Types of liminul experiences: temporal dimensions It should. villages and towns. minorities) whole societies. Van Gennep clearly saw territorial border zones or border lines. This is so despite the fact that van Gennep started his own analysis of ritual passages with a full chapter on 'the territorial passage'. longer periods.E a o o F \ q) B F- . Van Gennep discussed in this context both concrete thresholds such as porlals or doorways. As I have previously suggested (Thomassen 2009). or possibly years) epochs (decades. Liminality can also be applied to both single individuals and to larger groups (cohorls or villages). as structurally identical with the intermediate period of a ritual passage: spatial and geographical progression correlates with the ritual marking of a cultural passage. thresholds or portals.

EL J :: iJ F - --Y r'. c c ! thresholds such as portals 'ibal socicties. or uggested (Thomassen 2009).tt -^ metlsions t. thresholds or ) period of a ritual passage: the litual marking of a culJ that perhaps the physical Lat cE O t. villages and e rgcr civilizations. or whole societies. O O '-=O a o =c '= - = denrarcate a s). tical distinctions of lf ^=') a some- distinguishing'noments! so be tltousltt ol us a contin- se of lirlinal experience. In other \ Lf U C O -a -a t- a c EJ ! E 'o o 'tr D A c= ?v ljl . itby arcated with a transition rile le and institutionalized rites work of van Gennep.lger periodsr or even whole also be applied to both single lges). ierent tvpes of subjecthoocl: t 'civilizations it! (J -c ntlrries ) a Variety ol combinations aas =a d: v! -= c . E 'vo = O E -o d tbly priviieged the temporal lep statled his own ancl)sis lolial passage'.lxbolic or becone a rite of spiritual c _. border lines. the title of ritial classification of ntes.

jn between Mesopotamia and Egypt. in-between items in a classification scheme. monasteries. In anthropology. airporrs. on anthropol would draw tourlsm as el conditional'.ris w. rnedi-terranean. While recr should hesita to re-address toward an un In his ethnol tribal or'mor had relevanc empirical ap1 In a famr ln and Tndia (Thomassen 2010). the axial age as an in-between pedod betu. 1980s and 19 through a pe ance' were a sorls of elabr . parls/openings of the human body) areas or zones (border areas between nations. placed in important inbetween positions between larger civilizations. In paiticular. Ionia in Ancient Greece. like 'borderlands' or. continents (meso-potamia. Liminality is productively adopted by a growing number of scholars within comp experlen replaced ar1 and 1r In l. In resent an inte possibility I or imposed h a embraced in here is to po write and re understandinl liminoid. sea resorls. the axial age gave birth to a new sub-stratum ol persons: 'flree-standing' intellectuals. prisons. Thontassen words.s own suggestions. In introducing this third dimension I am perhaps going beyond van Gennep. But there are strong grounds to suggest that even Karl Jaspers. age shar distance leading 1 The suggesti. 3 Turner: 'The physical but countries or larger regions. arguably. Staying with the above threefold classification. it r.. and where the 'unquestioned grasp on life is loosened' (ibid.26 B. it was an age of urcertainty and contingency: an age where old cerlainties had lost their validity and where new ones were stil1 not ready. For hybridity. Ancient Palestine. a sc would be pr mmlgrants. Thinking with liminality: words of caution In contemporary literature liminality is being applied to a growing number of sub-fields. whole countries. in between the Near East and Eur-ope). specific places. I suggest that the spatial dimensions of liminality can relate to: 1 2 paradox..vas an age of crcativity r. specific objects.een two structured world-views and between two rounds of empire building (1953: 5l). these were To write strategy in 1 r u'riting. It was a period where individuals rose to the test and new leadership figures emerged. liminal places can be specrfic thresholds: they can also be more extended areas. the liminal has in recent decades been connected to the widespread notions of fluid or hybrid ctLrture (Gupta and perguson 1992).vherc'rnan asks radical questions. thresholds (a doorway in a house.: 3). famous theory of the axial age can be meaningfully understood with the notion of liminality (T Karl Jaspers' description ol the axial age at places used a vo almost identical to the one originally proposed by van Gennep. a rine that separates holy from sacred in a ritual.

in embraced liminali asserl positively to is here and otherness represent and rvrite a contlnnatlon are liminalitl' of understandings a mecli-ten'ancan: lonia rn Ancicnt nd van GenneP's ven Kat'l JasPers' d with the notion : the axial age at :igrnal11.r'een empire building al cluestiotis'. Wirile recognizing the importance of (a should hesitate to simpll' follor'v him to re-acldress the question: tlow exactly toward an underslanding ol social' cuitlr In his ethnographic accorttlts. Towritefromtheinterstices.qlral.ner: 'Tlre neophytes are Sometlmes said liminali6: 21 . China In a famous itr nal11'. They have to be hidden' silce it is a physical but not soclal reatiry. to . hence they have be there' (Tumer' 1967: 97)' This paradox. strategy much hybridity.fromthein-between'canberecoguizedasa rt separates holY n a classification ies.. Certaitr es as described bY ' The sLrggestions proposed in 'I-iminal on anthropology and neighbouring di would draw inspiration fiom Tumer t tourism as examples of the iiminoid' conditional'. a' u. Tnlrer provided a :diterranean. a scandal. prisons.it-"opotogy and formon process' through a pertbrmativt tttin *itt-' a focus to all so his work Tumer' ance' were always cmcial terms to his of The trvo easily m sorls of eiaborations in that direction' .an relate to: immigrants.1 imPofis. For Homi and . it was an age of lost their validitY :e indrvidttals rose the arral agc gave ctuals.tt *tluiougl.. In much sea resent an interstitia a cultural hybriclity that e and in a very ge hierarchy.Revisiting to Tut.rposed cultural studies literature. Tulncr r tribal or 'modern' societies. or in.be in atlother place'. the playful' Tumer bec went the wider social and human sciences 1980s and l SS0s. these were possibility tbr liminoid. the axial 'lcaPs' . in lirninal p)accs: Itres btlt exactlY at olVictor Tumer's u'ork otr the b comPat'a experiences replaced bY art and leisure activities' In his rvork on the (1978)' Tumer argued that pilgrim- agesharesaspectsparticipantsbecomee. in writing. proPosed :n period betr. of scholars within Lirninality is also ualiry.rt not to stateless people or illegal woulci be particular-ly evident fJt gtoup' like : mofe extended in imporlant inabove threefold . or any lorm ilson 2002) Minot- . 6n. positions.asthey uctures ancl theil social identities' distance then-rselv ol conrrnttnitas and a strong sense leading to a hotlogenization of status gowing number of been cotrnected to id Fergr"rson 1992). clearly sen had r-elevance far beyond the specific two concrete suggesttons: empirical application.

Here again. in order to grasp this cormection the work ol Turrrer must be brought into contact with social and political theory. asterles were c and highly (sel life style of tli. Turner distinguished between 'symbolic systems and genres which developed belore and after the Industrial Revolution' (1982: 30).s i t i ct n I would like to bc t ery explicit here: I do not think that Tumer's notion of the liminoid is an analltical step forwards. The pilgrimage is an emblematic case of lirninality because it so evidently represents both a spatial and temporal (and moral/social) separation from the ordinary. Tumer here caught a crucial mechanism involved in the liminal process: the ternporal and spatial fixation of liminal conditions. As argued by Szakolczai (2000. and the way in which transitions shape both persons and communities. and then became more widely known and used with the postmodemist tum of the 1980s. namely that in the rronastic and mendicant states olthe world religions. but it loses the kev feature of lirninality: t rct n. Szakolcza nality. the ritual lorms such transitions take. the problem is also that in contrast to liminal experiences. And it is here that Tlrmer's less discussed work on pilgrimage may in fact blaze the trail for us in a much more meaningful direction. transition had become a pernanent condition (1969: 107). Arpad Szakolczai. in his atterrpt to tum liminality into a more applicable term for modem consumer societies. however. Second. It was this insight that brought thc social theor-ist. lrave ra amed agairrsl. limina parlicular lram nent liminality from the worlr roles in an endl . They do in lact not. Thomassen work were exactly the ones that becan'ie 'codifled' and that are now dominating academic and popular discourses on liminality. On that account I suggest that we ought to be siightly conservative and return to the stafiing point of van Germep: liminality has to do with transition. Wl liminality' is aJ forms that can ture. does not mean that all transitions go srnoothly. represented the The concret be stressed her rvhile focusing and his analysi came to shape works ofPonca institutions (tht somehow had c creation of mor manentized is c tion of charisn social process. This was much in line with what Tumer himself had suggested earlier. to diagnose modemity as a peculiar fonn of 'permanent liminality'. Turnet was with his insight had suggested 'everydayinizat world religions what Weber tcr relations offere jectory based c the monastic e w}rat Weber ter style and the ar of the monaste to the wider so. 2003). glous movelnel lirninality' in rt At one leve that make up r have been creat permanent. Evidently. - The fixation of spatial and temporal liminality Turner introduced this idea referring to a situation in which the suspended character of social life evidently takes on a more permanent character'(Turner 1978). the understanding of the liminal as relating in modem society primarily to aft and leisure sidelines some of the clearly dangerous orproblematic aspects of liminality. The notion olthe liminoid has allowed for an indiscriminatc application of liminality. criticallr becomes a peu aration. wc have to be more than cautious about Tumer's very positive description of liminality and the creative energies released in liminal spaces. or should. however.28 B. The liminoid is a break from nonrality. a playftrl as-ifexperience. the fixation or pennanentization of lin. liminoid experiences are optional and do not involve a resohrtion of a personal crisis or a change of status. It is not irrelevant that Turner's ideas first started to spread around 1968. First. This.inal conditions somehow relate to the disciplinary mechanisms of modern society. Turner's (albeit hesitant) self-identification with the postmoder-nist turn cerlainly opened up a space lor a usage of the term that he would. While in itself a tnuch oversimplified dichotomy.

Revisiting Id that are no. n lact not. fbature ol rat Turner's notion of the l-re liminoid has allowed rccount I suggest that we ng point ofvan Gennep: transitions take. trans_ :e again. world religions. unbeknowns s attempt to di 1978) that t the 'ertra-ord world religions somehow problernati what Weber.'. na lit1. . to rt. the fixation :e to the disciplinarl 2000. And it is here bct blaze the trail for us ht a cruciai rnechanisrn cal1le works institu someh fixation of linrinal con_ Arpad Szakolczai. in ordel ght into contact with g agaln van Gennep. ch the suspended char_ raracter (Turner I 97g). however.s tripartite struc_ ere arc three types of perntanent limi_ of the riles olpassage. rt so evidently repre_ aration frorn the ordi_ re had suggested earlier. as il a film stopped at s a 29 .Liminality thephases in this sequence fof sep_ es frozen.tenled the ."v doninating r modem society prirlarily ous or problernatic aspects st started to spread around :d with the postrnodemist :ntincalion wirh rhc posr_ of the rernr that he would. 2003). and the lunltles. This. The liminoid is it ioses the ke1. however. tomir.. wc 'e description of limi_ ividently. lore liminality . the problem is also )nces are optional and do of status.religious rej relations offered to Weber a ctue to applicable tenn for lween'synrbolic systems e Industrial Revolution.

an incessant breaking down oftraditional boundaries. Weber (and his study of the Protestant ethic) and Elias (and his study of courl culture). It home so. This hallmark of modernity as excluding limit experiences was perhaps expressed most clearly by Kant. On the other hand it has also been argued.a space in which the Sophist thrives. was cefta introduce czai 200t nality tha can be ur We need . Th rntimatel' em wrlte tude that effective experren( back intt world. that the modem world is somehow a 'carnival'. communist regimes sustained themselves by playing continuously on the senti ments of revenge. where limit experiences turn into nonn. an abyss. who had always insisted that nothing can grow out of nothing. by a series of thinkers. The question relates to one of Plato's main concems in his later writings. writers and artists. But this temporal fixation of liminal conditions is paralleled by a spatial dynamic. and that one should therefore not talk about nothingness. a grotesque. Evidently Plato sensed that the end of the classical world critically had to do with exactly such a proliferation of non-space . Permanent liminality and the modern world The contemporary scene seems to be characterizedby an increasingly ambivalent attitude toward liminality: on the one hand a fear of liminal experiences as truly personality transforming events. namely the productive powers of nothingness. The even larger claim made by Szakoiczai was that modemity is itself a kind of permanent liminality: a continuous testing. this danger was signaled with great clarity by Plato (1995). The diagnostic effort by Szakolczai suggests that the modern episteme somehow represents a temporal permanentization of liminal conditions that at a given moment 'freeze' and tum into structure. preventing the settling down of negative emotions (see also Horvath 1998). it is increasingly evident that the modem world is characterized by a constant proliferation of empty spaces or non-spaces. without a proper re-integration. The understanding of communism as a specific 'third stage' type of pemanent liminality can be sustained by pointing to the fact that 'communism was a regime in which the Second World War never ended' (Ibid. far actually pointed c 'experier search fo around tl mechanic point or liise their lmprlsonr By sin beyond n that very anes. in which things can reproduce themselves infinitely. or. On the one hand. liminality is pure danger. Khora is a void. Surprisingly enough. a movement whereby the liminal becomes central and establishes itself as normality (Aug6 1995). In other words. in his discussion of the Khora in Timaeus. it 're-flects' like a mirror that is not affected by the image it the numt the Khor Westem threat to himself a The te structure! sion of between spatiality and politi tial whil< that.2 never-ending comedy.: 223). Thoma. and an existential sense of alienation and loss of being-at-home that in the modem episteme establishes itself as normality. hatred and suffering. Rather than healing the wounds and looking to the future. and how non-being tums into being. a constant search for self-overcoming. The two first suggestions build on insights by Tumer himself. Here Plato reluctantly had to go beyond Parmenides. on the other hand a celebratory stance towards any kind of liminality.sen stuck in the final stage of a ritual passage). the modern world was always characterized by closing off everything that lay beyond the boundaries of rationality. sion'. a frenzy that never really cools down (Thomassen 20 1 2a).s.30 B. and as stressed very much by Foucault.

this danger was ion of the Khora in in his later writ- how non-being turns ides. who had always one should therefore not of the classical world non-spac9-aspacem which things can reprois not affected by the L& .Revisiting first suggestions build on the Protestant ethic) and liminality 31 ing of communism as a be sustained by pointing Second World War never and looking to the future. continuously on the sentisettling down of negative $lity is pure daqg_er.2 never-ending that never really cools the modern episteme inal conditions that at a lis temporal fixation of-- it is increasingly evident proliferation of empty I becomes central and enough. The ity is itself a kind of perh for self-overcoming. of and an existential sense episteme establishes an increasingly ambiva- of liminal experiences a celebratory as stance as stressed very much by by closins off eveMhins allmark of modernity as clearly by Kant. grotesque. On the writers and artists.

32 B.'l verse is not these uPon ency was e. It is important to stress that van Gennep did not really launch a theory of ritual.to make such a claim would be mean- ingless: liminal spaces and moments are indeed characterized by contingency and uncertainty. move Gennep retut to the beautil FinaliY. Rationalism and social cijnstructivism alike predicate upo-na piior distancing to the world. but also to understand the tiuman reactions to liminal experiences: the way in which personality was shaped by liminality. It is particularly clear that many writers see liminality as fitting within a larger framework of social constructivism. positing themselves against more structural or nominalist philosophies or world-views. The tendency in the reception and application of liminality in the social and cultural sciences. The recognition made by Tumer was quite simply that experiences are in a formal sense ordered sequences. They thus perpetuate a kind of epistemic homelessness which goes to the heart of modern thinking. or as resonating with poststructuralist theories. in art and performance is that liminality represents an unordered. There are. however. as much as he claimed to have detected the underlying patterns in rites. id-e-as and acts. nature of n on this plar the beautY unlverse. linked tt of the r human scientifi . H the Finni . positing itself as an alternative to more dominant rationalist-positivist scientific views. Thomassen Conclusion: on being-at-home in a meaningful world This chapter has attempted to open a debate on how we think and live with liminality today. made late in Turner's life (Szakolczai 2004: 69-'72). Turner's work can instead be pushed in a different direction. the sudden foregrounding of agency. chaotic element of creativity and freedom in a modern world that was drowning with (Kantian) rationality. and to some extent this direction had indeed been indicated by van Gennep himself. However. strong grounds to reject this reception. h group or fron said (1960: 3 that ties our 6y a-periodit : itions. as rational choice theory in political science or Realism in Intemational Relations. Turner saw the parallels between his own project and the philosophy of Dilthey for this reason (see for example Turner 1982:12 19. Here again t very stark: 1 created socil Gennep's cl in Plato's Ii the beautY a rationally.and a further step away from any social constructivist interpretation that invariably will end up stressing the freedom of human creativity: for van Gennep the basic fact of transition did indeed somehow tie the human being to nature. Where Durkheim established a priori categories as the units of his taxonomy. This of course does not mean that liminality is simply structure and order . van Gennep inferredthese units from the tripartite structure of the cere- Nature must meaningfullY which we. JulY 'The Uset issue dedi 2 The word monies themselves. and the sometimes dramatic tying together of thought and experience. and that human beings impose their oider lipon ii via their (rational or not) choices. 1988: 84-91). Gennep's framework even one step further here . This was indeed an important and momentous intellectual encounter. Notes 1 This chaP sium on' pool. I think it is possible to take van Referenc Andrews. Social constructivism developed as a paradigm in order to stress human agency in the meaningful construction of the'World'. and was taken up by Tumer in his later work. Tumer realized that liminality served not only to identifu the importance of in-between periods. liminal experiences do have a 'form' ot arecognizable 'pattern'. What is rarely recognized is the extent to which rational choice theory and social constructivism share a foundational epistemology: namely that the world itself is essentially unordered.

Or. movements forward. human beings. concepts and rnodels and then irnpose these r. : even one step further ivist interpretation that References ativity: for van Gennep turman being to nature.(2009)'Tourismasa"momentofbeing"'.SuomenAntropologi the Finnish Anthropological Society. the revolutions ofthe planets. However. joins them to the great rhythms of the universe. among some peoples. Liverpool. the work in which Plato most clearly posits the recognition ol the beauty and order of the natural world as the condition for living and thinking rationally.the only one we have . Andrews. van Gennep said (1960: 3). strong eveloped as a paradigm direction. JottrnaL of . create schemes. by a sorl of prescientific divination. 'The Uses and Meanings of Liminality' (Thomassen 2009) which appeared in a special isstre dedicated 2 to liminalitl in International Political Anthropology.H. must itnpose our order. a clearly neo-kantianposition. with stages and transitions. an animated universe. Parts ofthe chapter are elaborations ofa previously published article. as van Gennep said. e g. and the phases of the moon.Revisiting orld lhink and live with limi- tion of liminality in the rat liminalily represents in a modern world that r clear that many writers ial constructivism. been linked to the celestial passages. They thus to the hearl of modem liminality Finally. the series of human transitions has. Notes 1 This chapter is a revised version of a confereuce paper fir'st presented at the Symposium on'Liminal landscapes: r'e-mapping the field'.cant closure of the book: truction of the 'World'. John Moores University. rather than a chaos upon which we. This tendency was exactly what Eric Voegelin would come to recognize as the Gnostic nature of rnodemity (Thomassen 2012b). and the sometimes lmer saw the parallels for this reason (see for tdeed an important and ner's 1if'e (Szakolczai Jte simply that experiurse does not mean that clairn would be meanlerized by contingency 'fonn' or a recognizalid not really launch a :he underlying patterns as the units of his taxstructure of the cere- :e 33 Nature must here be understood in the best ol Hellenic-classical traditions as a meaningfully ordered cosmos.rpon an unstructured chaos.: 194) Here again the contrast to Durkheim (and contemporary social constructivism) is very stark: for Durkheim human beings bestow order on nature from their selfcreated social order. Transitions from group to group or from one social situationto the next are a'fact of society'. The style and content of Van Gennep's closing paragraph much rnore closely resembles the cosmology found jn Plato's Timeu.should rather be to humbly 'tune in' to the beauty of the world. (ibid. and to some ennep hirnself. our role in this universe and on this planet . or as gmselves against more ere are. The u ord comes from 'grotto'.s. for van Gennep transitions are also a 'fact of existence' that ties our individual and social life to nature: 'The universe itself is governed by a periodicity which has repercLtssions on human life. July 2010.3aQ): 5 21 .: 3). however. join the great hymns of the unlverse. Instead. It is indeed a cosmic conception that relates the stages of human existence to those of plant and animal life and. to 'build the world' from scratch. ca\. alist-positivist scientifi c {ealism in Intemational rh rational choice theory ology: namely that rhe ings impose their order Rationalism and social o the world. Van Gennep retunled to the parallel to nature in the conclusion where it inspired him to the beautiful and signifi.e. and was at liminality served not t also to understand the which personality was Lcy. This can also be said differently: the role of hnman beings in the universe is not to erect order. and periods ol relative inactivity' (ibid.

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