chapter  1
16 Pages

Liminal Fairies

The Anthropological Paradigm
WithPiotr Spyra

Chapter 1 outlines the role of liminality in the anthropological studies of Arnold Van Gennep, Victor Turner and Mary Douglas and explains the differences in emphasis between the three scholars, focusing in particular on the relationship between the liminal and pollution laws. The argument expands the context of liminality beyond its relevance for studies of rites of passage and stresses the fact that in the structuralist paradigm of the Van Gennepian school of anthropology as exemplified by Turner and Douglas the notion is enmeshed in the problematic of the binary, oppositional structure of human thought. Investigating liminality cross-culturally as a necessary product of the operations of the human mind, the chapter offers a vision of culture that quarantines the liminal with rules and prohibitions aimed at domesticating the danger and power of its ambiguity (its being both this and that) and its formlessness (being neither this nor that).