Monday, 23 August 2010


Recently I came across a word, for some reason I had never come across it before. Now it seems to be everywhere.

Liminal ‘of or pertaining to the threshold or initial stage of a process’ OED

studio sketch 2010

Its practical application is rooted in anthropology and was expanded by Victor Turner in the 1960’s to talk of relationships to a ‘social structure’ (i.e. society, a community, a group). Initially liminality explained the status of an individual undergoing some sort of transition -usually through ritual. On that threshold or in that liminal territory there isn’t any status - some attributes of liminality: invisibility, ambiguity, instability...

‘Liminality represents the midpoint or transition in a status sequence between two positions…' Victor Turner 1974

As I’ve mentioned before nomadism has always intrigued me. It seemed a more appropriate way to describe being in-between two cultures (certainly more preferable to hybridity) it’s like being home and away simultaneously. Marginality seemed negative and also well rehearsed. Liminality is different, the expansion of the term makes the concept very slippery - nebulous even. It’s difficult to work out whether the word describes being inside or outside. One proposition placed liminal beings in-between the cracks of the social structure - which I like more...

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