The Rites of Passage and Liminality

1042 words 5 pages
The Rites of Passage and Liminality
Originally developed by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in the early 20th century in his book Rites de Passage, the term liminality refers to the concept in which participants are in the threshold stage of disorientation and suspension from the previous social norm that they were used to. When an individual goes through a rite of passage—also coined by van Gennep—he is cut off from his “old life” and is born again into a new person. However, before he can fully become a new person and finish his rite of passage, he is suspended in a liminal stage that bridges the old self with the newly acknowledged self. In other words, he is in a stage of disorientation and amorphous identity. Found throughout all
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Each year, millions of Muslims and Arabs embark upon the hajj in order to pay tribute and purify themselves as a new person, crowding up the Medina Pillars and causing a huge sensation of intense communitas. Indeed, the journey itself can be considered a liminal phase in their rite of passage.
In American society, liminality occurs over a wider span of time than other societies, and sometimes not marked by any significant rituals at all until nearly two decades after birth. The uncertain and prolonged period of stress and changes that are not marked or defined is known as adolescence, where the child physically, mentally, and emotionally transitions into the life of an adult without much ritual markers to help clarify. This prolonged period of confusion is marked by high rates of suicide, anti-social behaviors, and rebellion. Nevertheless, as late as it might come, high school graduation and getting one’s first job are also still considered a prominent event in the adolescent’s life when one receives the ceremonial diploma of completion; even turning 18 years old is also a huge occasion for in American society, for one is considered and recognized publicly to be an adult and cease being a minor the moment one turns 18. Also,


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