Latest Publications

Objects of the Threshold - a liminal reflection

Moya Goosen - Zayed University Assistant Professor of Art History
14 December 2023

The construct liminal stems from the Latin nouns liminis (or limen) meaning threshold and transire (trans emphasizing the beyond) - to cross over to the other side. Liminality was first used by anthropologists Arnold Van Gennep and later Victor Turner during the 20th century to describe the different stages and the social roles of the rites of passage during rituals (such as marriage or coming-of-age ceremonies). Van Gennep and Turner’s contribution concerning liminality lies in their emphasis on the importance of embracing an in-between, ambiguous, or disorientated state. They argued that these transitional moments are vital for us to move forward as they influence our identity. Contemporary cultural theory, such as Homi Bhabha’s postcolonial perspective in the seminal work The Location of Culture (originally published in 1994), was later greatly influenced by these viewpoints. He defines the liminal as a transitory, mediate “third space of enunciation” that is characterized by uncertainty, hybridity, and potential for cultural change. Cultural liminality is experienced for example when an individual is caught between two cultures after being unsettled or displaced, such as an immigrant experiencing diaspora in a new culture after forcefully having to leave home.