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Breaking Boundaries

Varieties of Liminality

Edited by Agnes Horvath, Bjørn Thomassen, and Harald Wydra

264 pages, 7 illus., 1 table, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-766-4 $110.00/£78.00 Hb Published (May 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-767-1 eBook

Hb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Buy the ebook from these vendors

“In well integrated chapters, the [volume] proves the relevance of the concept across disciplines, particularly for the study of moments of instability and possibility, as well as for understanding the transformative potential of participation… In addition to helping one understand in-between experiences overall, [it] invites the reader to rethink the complicated relation between individual agency, social order and cultural transmission… a remarkable contribution to sociology, anthropology and critical theory.” · European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology

“A topic with a very broad appeal, namely liminality, [is] treated here as an analytical concept. While liminality has been a widespread concept in anthropology and social theory for decades, largely owing to Victor Turner's seminal work, it has rarely been scrutinized properly, and this volume is to be welcomed. In some ways, this kind of book is long overdue.” · Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo

“The book is a timely intervention which secures firmer grounding for liminality as one of the key concepts in social theory... Theoretically strong, and with an empirical range that takes in pre- and post-Revolutionary France, the frontier building of the American West, Egypt’s Tahrir Square, and the liminality of the postcommunist Eastern bloc, the book provides a valuable contribution to debates on liminality, transformation, and contingency in the social and political world.” · Les Roberts, University of Liverpool

Liminality has the potential to be a leading paradigm for understanding transformation in a globalizing world. As a fundamental human experience, liminality transmits cultural practices, codes, rituals, and meanings in situations that fall between defined structures and have uncertain outcomes. Based on case studies of some of the most important crises in history, society, and politics, this volume explores the methodological range and applicability of the concept to a variety of concrete social and political problems.

Agnes Horvath is a co-founder and editor of the peer-reviewed journal International Political Anthropology and is a visiting scholar of Sociology at Cambridge University. She is the author or co-author of eight books, including, most recently, Reclaiming Beauty (co-edited with James B. Cuffe, Ficino Press, 2012), Modernism and Charisma (Palgrave, 2013), and Statesman: The Politics of Limits and the Liminal (co-edited with John O’Brien, Tivoli, 2013).

Bjørn Thomassen is Associate Professor in the Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University, and is a co-founder and editor of the journal International Political Anthropology. His recent publications include Liminality and the Modern: Living Through the In-Between (Ashgate, 2014), and the edited collection Global Rome: Changing Faces of the Eternal City (Indiana University Press, 2014).

Harald Wydra is a Fellow of St Catharine’s College at the University of Cambridge, where he has taught politics since 2003, and is a co-founder and editor of the journal International Political Anthropology. His books include Communism and the Emergence of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Democracy and Myth in Russia and Eastern Europe (co-edited with Alexander Wöll, Routledge, 2008), and Politics and the Sacred (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Subject: General Anthropology

LC: BF175.5.L55B74 2015

BISAC: SOC002010 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/Cultural; POL010000 POLITICAL SCIENCE/History & Theory

BIC: JHMC Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography; JPA Political science & theory


List of Figures

Introduction: Liminality and the Search for Boundaries
Harald Wydra, Bjørn Thomassen, and Agnes Horvath


Chapter 1. Liminality and Experience: Structuring transitory situations and transformative events
Arpad Szakolczai

Chapter 2. Thinking with Liminality: To the Boundaries of an Anthropological Concept
Bjørn Thomassen


Chapter 3. Inbetweenness and Ambivalence
Bernhard Giesen

Chapter 4. The Genealogy of Political Alchemy: the technological invention of identity change
Agnes Horvath

Chapter 5. Critical Processes and Political Fluidity: a Theoretical Appraisal
Michel Dobry

Chapter 6. Liminality and the Frontier Myth in the Building of the American Empire
Stephen Mennell

Chapter 7. On the Margins of the Public and the Private: Louis XIV at Versailles
Peter Burke


Chapter 8. Liminality, the execution of Louis XVI and the rise of terror during the French Revolution
Camil Roman

Chapter 9. In Search of Antistructure: The Meaning of Tahrir Square in Egypt’s Ongoing Social Drama
Mark Allen Peterson

Chapter 10. Liminality and Democracy
Harald Wydra

Chapter 11. Liminality and Postcommunism: The Twenty-First Century as the Subject of History
Richard Sakwa

Chapter 12. The Challenge of Liminality for International Relations Theory
Maria Malksoo

Notes on Contributors

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