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论文作者:留学生论文论文属性:硕士毕业论文 dissertation登出时间:2022-09-30编辑:vicky点击率:523

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Chapter One Understanding Liminality

1.1 Etymology of Liminality

Etymologically speaking, the term “liminality” derives from the Latin word limen, which means “threshold”, geographically denoting the floor in the doorway that connects two different spaces, psychologically denoting the level or limit on a scale that will cause changes. It can be seen that liminality is an in-between space with potentiality. According to Szakolczai, the term “liminality” recalls the Greek herma, which means a stone that is “positioned on a borderline to mark the limit” (2015:23). The word “limit” does not share the same root as “liminality”; it derives from the Latin word limes (plural, limites), which stands for an end or the mark of the enclosure. That is to say, the limit refers to a close space such as a boundary or border while liminality refers to an in-between space that is far from the delimited territory. However, when the border is transgressed, it can become a threshold featured with liminality. 


To sum up, from the perspective of its etymology, liminality suggests an in-between space that can be understood as a point of entry into another zone. The liminal space is one of opening and becoming, which is similar to the Deleuzian nomad with the possibility of territorialization, deterritorialization, and reterritorialization. It can also refer to a transitional or indeterminate state between culturally defined stages of a person’s life especially when he is in the process of mobility or migration. 

1.2 Development of Liminality

According to the Encyclopedia of Social Theory, liminality’s technical meaning “derives from anthropological studies of ritual passages in small-scale societies” (Harrington et al, 2006:322), first conceptualized by Arnold van Gennep in the early 20th century. In Gennep’s opinion, a person’s or a group’s passage from one state to another state is marked by rites, and during the passage, all people will experience transitions. Gennep elaborates rites of passage as “passage from one situation to another or from one cosmic or social word to another” (1960:10) and divides it into three stages: rites of separation (preliminal rites), transition rites (liminal rites), and rites of incorporation (postliminal rites).  

Later, the English anthropologist Victor Turner further illustrates the development of liminality: in the separation phase, there are full of symbolic behaviors that indicate the individual’s or group’s detachment from the original social structures or cultural conditions; in the liminal phase, the passengers or liminal personae are ambiguous, “neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial” (1967:95), who pass through a realm that has nothing to do with the past and coming state. The liminal phase is first depicted by a lack of categorization and it is in this phase that new categories and norms emerge. When it enters the last stage – incorporation – the passage is finally completed, in which the ritual subject is again in a stable state. 

Chapter Two Liminal Spaces of the Migrants

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