Reconceptualization of status liminality in the sociological theory

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This article aims at filling some theoretical gaps in understanding status liminality as a ‘transition state’ in the processes of social mobility. Based on the ideas of A. van Gennep and V. Turner on the nature of rites de passage, the author reconstructs the types of status liminality - ascending, descending, recursive, permanent liminality and liminoidity. The article identified some features that distinguish liminality from marginality and deviance: transitivity - the altered preliminal position and identity combined with the incomplete metamorphosis; temporality - normative temporal and (possibly) spatial boundaries of the transition period; consequentiality - social significance of the postliminal status transformation for both its bearer and society or social groups involved. The phenomenon of ‘communitas’ discovered by Turner is of particular importance for understanding the state of liminality for it represents a tendency of liminal people to depart from the ‘mundane domain’ into the anti- and non-structural social-psychological state in which social ties are vividly affective and social experience has a profound existential effect. For each type of status liminality, the author provides examples from the traditional and modern societies using research in sociology of death, medical sociology, criminal sociology, sociology of tourism, social psychology, etc. To conclude, the author considers such phenomena as precariat, morphological freedom and edgework in the liminality perspective. Thus, the heuristic potential of the concept ‘liminality’ can make a significant contribution to the study of social changes and understanding mechanisms of reproducing social order at the individual, group and societal levels.

About the authors

I. V. Katernyi

Moscow State University of International Relations; Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
Vernadskogo Prosp., 76, Moscow, 119454, Russia; Krzhizahanovskogo St., 24/35-5, Moscow, 117218, Russia


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