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Examples of general usage::Liminality

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Examples of general usage

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In rituals

In the context of rituals, liminality is being artificially produced, as opposed to those situations (such as natural disasters) in which it can occur spontaneously.<ref>Thomassen 2009, p. 18</ref> In the simple example of a college graduation ceremony, the liminal phase can actually be extended to include the period of time between when the last assignment was finished (and graduation was assured) all the way through reception of the diploma. That no man's land represents the limbo associated with liminality. The stress of accomplishing tasks for college has been lifted, yet the individual has not moved on to a new stage in life (psychologically or physically). The result is a unique perspective on what has come before, and what may come next.

It can include the period between when a couple get engaged and their marriage or between death and burial, for which cultures may have set ritual observances. Even sexually liberal cultures may strongly disapprove of an engaged spouse having sex with another person during this time.

When a marriage proposal is initiated there is a liminal stage between the question and the answer during which the social arrangements of both parties involved are subject to transformation and inversion; a sort of "life stage limbo" so to speak in that the affirmation or denial can result in multiple and diverse outcomes.

Getz<ref>Getz 2007, 179.</ref> provides commentary on the liminal/liminoid zone when discussing the planned event experience. He refers to a liminal zone at an event as the creation of "time out of time: a special place". He notes that this liminal zone is both spatial and temporal and integral when planning a successful event (e.g. ceremony, concert, conference etc.).<ref>Getz 2007, 442.</ref>

In time

The temporal dimension of liminality can relate to moments (sudden events), periods (weeks, months, or possibly years), and epochs (decades, generations, maybe even centuries).<ref>Thomassen 2009, p. 16</ref>

Twilight serves as a liminal time, between day and night - where one is 'in the twilight zone, in a liminal nether region of the night'.<ref>Costello 2002, 158.</ref> The title of the television fiction series The Twilight Zone makes reference to this, describing it as "the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition" in one variant of the original series' opening. The name is from an actual zone observable from space in the place where daylight or shadow advances or retreats about the Earth. Noon and, more often, midnight can be considered liminal, the first transitioning between morning and afternoon, the latter between days.

Within the years, liminal times include equinoxes when day and night have equal length, and solstices, when the increase of day or night shifts over to its decrease. Where the Quarter days are held to mark the change in seasons, they also are liminal times.

New Year's Day, whatever its connection or lack of one to the astrological sky, is a liminal time. Customs such as fortune-telling take advantage of this liminal state. In a number of cultures, actions and events on the first day of the year can determine the year, leading to such beliefs as First-Foot. Many cultures regard it as a time especially prone to hauntings by ghosts -- liminal beings, neither alive nor dead.

In religion

Christian worship

Liminal existence can be located in a separated sacred space, which occupies a sacred time. Examples in the Bible include the dream of Jacob (Genesis 28:12-19) where he encounters God between heaven and earth and the instance when Isaiah meets the Lord in the temple of holiness (Isaiah 6:1-6).<ref>Carson, 2003, 61.</ref> In such a liminal space, the individual experiences the revelation of sacred knowledge where God imparts His knowledge on the person.

Worship can be understood in this context as the church community (or communitas or koinonia) enter into liminal space corporately.<ref>Carson 2003, 61.</ref> Religious symbols and music may aid in this process described as a pilgrimage by way of prayer, song, or liturgical acts. The congregation is transformed in the liminal space and as they exit, are sent out back into the world to serve.

Of beings

Various minority groups can be considered liminal. In reality illegal immigrants (present but not "official"), and stateless people, for example, are regarded as liminal because they are "betwixt and between home and host, part of society, but sometimes never fully integrated".<ref>Thomassen 2009, p. 19</ref> Intersex or transgender people, bisexual people in most contemporary societies, people of mixed ethnicity, and those accused but not yet judged guilty or not guilty, are liminal. Teenagers, being neither children nor adults, are liminal people: indeed, "for young people, liminality of this kind has become a permanent phenomenon...Postmodern liminality".<ref>Kahane 1997, 31.</ref> The "trickster as the mythic projection of the magician - standing in the limen between the sacred realm and the profane"<ref>Nicholas 2009, 25.</ref> and related archetypes embody many such contradictions as do many popular culture celebrities. The category could also hypothetically and in fiction include cyborgs, hybrids between two species, shapeshifters. One could also consider seals, crabs, shorebirds, frogs, bats, dolphins/whales and other "border animals" to be liminal: "the wild duck and swan are cases in point...intermediate creatures that combine underwater activity and the bird flight with an intermediate, terrestrial life".<ref>Joseph Henderson in Jung 1978, 153.</ref> It should come as no surprise that these liminal creatures figure prominently in mythology as shapeshifters and spirit guides.

In places

The spatial dimension of liminality can include specific places, larger zones or areas, or entire countries and larger regions.<ref>Thomassen 2009, p. 16</ref> Liminal places can range from borders and frontiers to no man's lands and disputed territories, to crossroads to perhaps airports or hotels, which people pass through but do not live in: arguably indeed all 'romantic travel enacts the three stages that characterize liminality: separation, marginalization, and reaggregation'.<ref>Illowz 1997, 143.</ref> In mythology and religion or esoteric lore liminality can include such realms as Purgatory or Da'at, which, as well as signifying liminality, some theologians deny actually existing, making them, in some cases, doubly liminal. "Between-ness" defines these spaces. For a hotel worker (an insider) or a person passing by with disinterest (a total outsider), the hotel would have a very different connotation. To a traveller staying there, the hotel would function as a liminal zone, just as 'doors and windows and hallways and gates frame...the definitively liminal condition'.<ref>Richard Brown in Corcoran 2002, 211.</ref>

More conventionally, springs, caves, shores, rivers, volcanic calderas - 'a huge crater of an extinct volcano...[as] another symbol of transcendence'<ref>Joseph Henderson, in Jung 1978, 152.</ref> - fords, passes, crossroads, bridges, and marshes are all liminal: '"edges", borders or faultlines between the legitimate and the illegitimate'.<ref>Richard Brown in Corcoran 2002, 196</ref> Oedipus (an adoptee and therefore liminal) met his father at the crossroads and killed him; the bluesman Robert Johnson met the devil at the crossroads, where he is said to have sold his soul. Major transformations occur at crossroads and other liminal places, at least partly because liminality—being so unstable—can pave the way for access to esoteric knowledge or understanding of both sides.<ref>El Khoury, 2015, 217</ref> Liminality is sacred, alluring, and dangerous.

In folklore

There are a number of stories in folklore of those who could only be killed in a liminal space: Lleu could not be killed during the day or night, nor indoors or outdoors, nor riding or walking, nor clothed or naked (and is attacked at dusk, while wrapped in a net with one foot on a cauldron and one on a goat). Likewise, in Hindu text Bhagavat Purana, God Vishnu appears in a half-man half-lion form named Narasimha to destroy the demon Hiranyakashipu who has obtained the power never to be killed in day nor night, in the ground nor in the air, with weapon nor by bare hands, in a building nor outside it, by man nor beast. Narasimha kills Hiranyakashipu at dusk, across his lap, with his sharp claws, on the threshold of the palace, and as Narasimha is God himself, the demon is killed by neither man nor beast. In the Mahabharata, Indra promises not to slay Namuci and Vritra with anything wet or dry, nor in the day or in the night, but instead kills them at dusk with foam.<ref></ref> Yet another example comes from Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" in which the Forest Spirit can only be killed while switching between its two forms.

In ethnographic research

In ethnographic research, 'the researcher is...in a liminal state, separated from his own culture yet not incorporated into the host culture'<ref>Norris Johnson, in Robben and Sluka 2007, 76</ref> - when he or she is both participating in the culture and observing the culture. The researcher must consider the self in relation to others and his or her positioning in the culture being studied.

In many cases, greater participation in the group being studied can lead to increased access of cultural information and greater in-group understanding of experiences within the culture. However increased participation also blurs the role of the researcher in data collection and analysis. Often a researcher that engages in fieldwork as a "participant" or "participant-observer" occupies a liminal state where he/she is a part of the culture, but also separated from the culture as a researcher. This liminal state of being betwixt and between is emotional and uncomfortable as the researcher uses self-reflexivity to interpret field observations and interviews.

Some scholars argue that ethnographers are present in their research, occupying a liminal state, regardless of their participant status. Justification for this position is that the researcher as a "human instrument" engages with his/her observations in the process of recording and analyzing the data. A researcher, often unconsciously, selects what to observe, how to record observations and how to interpret observations based on personal reference points and experiences. For example, even in selecting what observations are interesting to record, the researcher must interpret and value the data available. To explore the liminal state of the researcher in relation to the culture, self-reflexivity and awareness are important tools to reveal researcher bias and interpretation.

In popular culture

  • The Twilight Zone (1959–2003) is a U.S. television anthology series.
  • Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey (2007), a U.S. novel by Chuck Palahniuk, makes use of liminality in explaining time travel.
  • Possession, a romance by A. S. Byatt, describes how postmodern 'Literary theory. Feminism...write about liminality. Thresholds. Bastions. Fortresses'.<ref>Byatt 1990, 505-6.</ref>
  • The Terminal (2004), is a U.S. film in which the main character (Viktor Navorski) is trapped in a liminal space; since he can neither legally return to his home country Krakozhia nor enter the United States, he must remain in the airport terminal indefinitely until he finds a way out at the end of the film.
  • Offshore, a British novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, whose characters live between sea and land (docked boats), becoming liminal people. Liminality is a major theme in the novel.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play by dramatist Tom Stoppard, which takes place both in a kind of no-man's-land and the actual setting of Hamlet.
  • '"Hamlet" is in several ways an essay in sustained liminality...only via a condition of complete liminality can Hamlet finally see the way forward'.<ref>Liebler, p. 182-4</ref>
  • 'Bellow's wonderfully varied uses of liminality...include his Dangling Man, suspended between civilian life and the armed forces'<ref>Elsbree 1991, 66.</ref> at 'the onset of the dangling days'.<ref>Bellow 1977, 84.</ref>
  • .hack//Liminality where Harald Hoerwick, the creator of the MMORPG "The World", attempted to bring the real world into the online world, creating a hazy barrier between the two worlds; a concept called "Liminality".
  • "Liminal Space" is an album by American Breakcore artist Xanopticon.
  • The Twilight Saga is a book series by Stephanie Meyer that was turned into film series. Each book title speaks of a liminal period (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn).
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth (1961), Milo enters "The Lands Beyond", a liminal place (which explains its topsy-turvy nature), through the tollbooth. When he finishes his quest, he returns, but changed, seeing the world differently. The giver of the tollbooth is never seen and name never known, and hence, also remains liminal.
  • Coil mention liminality throughout their works, most explicitly with the title of their song "Batwings (A Limnal Hymn)" (sic) from their album Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 2.
  • In the film Waking Life Aklilu Gebrewold talks about liminality (among other things).

Liminality sections
Intro  Rites of passage  Communitas  Types  Liminal experiences in large-scale societies  Depth psychology  Examples of general usage  Liminoid  See also  Notes  Bibliography  

Examples of general usage
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