Liminal Spaces.

Are you at all familiar with the concept of liminal spaces? It’s an anthropological term (though I suppose it could be applied to non-living concepts too). The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as:


Liminal (lim·i·nal): from the Latin ‘limen’ for ‘threshold’

1. Of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.

2. Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.


However, it means so much more than that. To quote Wiki:

In anthropology, liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.


The concept of liminality was first developed in the early 20th century by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep and later taken up by Victor Turner. More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rituals. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established. The term has also passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.

This idea of liminal space sums up this waiting period before leaving as best as I could define. No longer am I an undergraduate, intern, or denizen of my town, but I am not a graduate student or resident of Leicester either. Moving back up to Mom and Dad’s for this time period just makes the ‘ritual’ (if you will) all the more potent, being in a space in between two major points in my life. It’s a great moment to recuperate and prepare for the next identity shift, but at the same time I am itching to just delve into the new unknown and feel a little more established in this new identity. Bittersweet and longing for both past and future is what I have at the moment. It’s a strange feeling that seems to take away the concept of time fluidly moving forward while I’m in it, but one that I’m sure everyone will experience at some point in their lives before they too transform into a new person in their own life stories.

While we all had a great family outing this weekend roaming Wyoming and Montana, it did make the bittersweet all the more powerful. I fiddled around with the new iMovie (apologies for the amateur nature of my first attempt) and made a short video of all the places we saw alongside some appropriate feeling music – Rivers and Roads by The Head and The Heart. I will miss the great, beautiful expanses of nothing but the massive mountain ranges and fast flowing rivers. Photos never do it proper justice – it just needs to be witnessed in person. Definitely need to visit again. 🙂


— Kate


2 thoughts on “Liminal Spaces.

  1. I dig the quote, though the quote itself makes me feel strange b/c of what it points out. The future is exciting, but it is a bit unsettling to think about leaving who you are now behind. Breaking that new self in is the strangest feeling of all, but it’s comforting to know that the new will eventually become cozily old, as it always does 🙂


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