Skip to main content

Liminality

  • Reference work entry

Origin

Liminality is a term used to describe the psychological process of transitioning across boundaries and borders. The term “limen” comes from the Latin for threshold; it is literally the threshold separating one space from another. It is the place in the wall where people move from one room to another. Often a door is placed across the threshold to close up and restrict access between rooms. The concept was first applied to psychology as the technical name for the perceptual threshold, the degree of stimulus intensity that would just be noticed as audible or visible or detectable in any sensory mode. But its contemporary usage comes from the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957). In his study of religion as a cultural artifact, he saw that many, if not all, of the rituals across cultures have the function of moving a person from one status or social circumstance to another. His major work, Rites of Passage or Les Rites du Passagein the original French (1909/1960), sets...

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Bibliography

  • Campbell, J. (1949). The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewin, K. (1966). Principles of topological psychology (trans: Heider, F.). New York: McGraw-Hill (Original work published 1936).

    Google Scholar 

  • Pike, K. L. (1954). Language in relation to a unified theory of structure of human behavior (Parts I, II, and III). Glendale: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Turner, V. (1995). The ritual process: Structure and anti-structure. New York: Aldine de Gruyter (Original work published 1969).

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Gennep, A. (1960). The rites of passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (Original work published 1909).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul Larson .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this entry

Cite this entry

Larson, P. (2014). Liminality. In: Leeming, D.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_387

Download citation