Liminality and the Social Matrix: Race as Betwixt and Between
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
Graduate Student, Philosophy Department, Florida State University