Special Issue on Liminality in
International Political Anthropology (www.ipa3.org)
Special issue of International Political Anthropology.
Welcome to this first special issue of International Political Anthropology.
This issue is concerned with the concept of liminality, a major concept in cultural and social anthropology whose importance for the understanding of wider processes of social and political change has been understudied so far. The thematic choice of liminality for this special issue is not a coincidence. Marking the 100th anniversary of the publication of Arnold van Gennep’s Rites de Passage in 1909 the conference “Liminality and Cultures of Change” was held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge in February 2009. Developed in social anthropology (Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner) by studying the ubiquitous rites of initiation as a category of cultural experience, liminality refers to in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes. The central idea is that such liminal conditions of uncertainty, fluidity, and malleability are situations to be studied on their own right where lived experience transforms human beings cognitively, emotionally, and morally, and therefore significantly contributes to the transmission of ideas and to the formation of structures.
The nine articles presented in this special issue do not represent any specific theoretical paradigm. The authors come from a series of different disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, political science, and history. What unifies this volume is a shared engagement with the concept of liminality, and the belief that this concept is indeed a central concept to the social and human sciences, still open to exploration.
We wish you a good reading.
Agnes Horvath, Bjørn Thomassen, Harald Wydra
Chief Editors of International Political Anthropology
Dr Harald Wydra
St Catharine's College
University of Cambridge
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