Liminality and the Social Matrix: Race as Betwixt and Between

By Philip Griffith.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this essay, I utilize resources from the field of cultural anthropology in order to sketch a preliminary basis for reconceptualizing social action. I then apply the theoretical framework to race. In the field of cultural anthropology, I rely on both Arnold van Gennep's talented work regarding rites of passage and Victor Turner’s development of the pattern's liminal phase to outline a structural model of social states linked together by rites of passage. After providing a synopsis of the relevant aspects of van Gennep's and Turner's theories, I argue that rites of passage rely for their existence on the individual's culturally informed ascription of value to positions in social space. I then claim that race in the American South can be pragmatically reconceptualized on this model as an incomplete liminal phase, due to its attributional equivalence with the characteristics of the liminal subject. So formulated, its elimination requires the deliberate manipulation of a group's shared value assignment, though this consequence of the view is only briefly discussed.

Keywords: Social Matrix, Liminality, Race

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.255-262. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 531.917KB).

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.


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