Liminality and the Social Matrix: Race as Betwixt and Between

Philip Griffith
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In this essay, I utilize conceptual resources from the field of cultural anthropology in an effort to shed new light on the phenomenon of race. In doing so, I first sketch a general picture of the social matrix that we as humans use to symbolically structure our social world, as well as draw an important distinction between the individual and the group. In the field of cultural anthropology, I rely on the talented labors of Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner: I believe that van Gennep’s work regarding rites of passage and Turner’s development of the concept of liminality (in relation to those rites) can play a large role in understanding the concept of race. After providing a synopsis of the relevant aspects of their theories, I argue that race, as we know it, can be best described as a liminal phase in a perpetual rite of passage, one that relies for its existence on the individuals culturally informed ascription of value to socially constructed offices. So formulated, its elimination requires the deliberate manipulation of symbolic value within any social matrix in which it exists.

Keywords: Liminality, Race
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Liminality and the Social Matrix,

Philip Griffith

Graduate Student, Philosophy Department, Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida, USA

I received a BA in Archaeology and Philosophy from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana, USA; I am currently pursuing my PhD in Philosophy at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. My current research involves reconceptualizing problems in social and political philosophy through the lens of structuralist cultural anthropology. I am also interested in the theory and practice of nonviolent social action, particularly in how models of legitimate individual response to unjust state rule might be integrated into the theoretical frameworks of thinkers such as Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas, and others.

Ref: I07P0776