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Liminality and the Ritual Process

            The term "Liminality" is a new word that became synonymous with Victor Turner's work in "The Ritual Process" published in 1967, but in turn seems from "The Rights of Passage" by Arnold Van Gannep. Van Gennep's work focuses on the "rites of passage", which today is seen as a ritual for people in different forms of life. Indeed when Van Gennep carried out his ethnographic research, it was scrutinized by the positivism of the Durkheimian scholars when it was published. Van Gennep disagreed with Durkheim's "Rules of Elementary forms of Religious Life". Van Gennep had wrote his work on Australian totemism six years before Durkheim completed his own work, Van Gennep viewed the "totem" differed from Durkheim'. Durkheim maintained that social institutions progressed with evolution. Van Gennep stipulated that these were critical for human social institutions, as necessary for human survival, he argued that humans form groups in order to survive, and thus that groups have a special place in the history of evolution. Consequently, Lukes illustrates "Durkheim's well-known tendency to 'perceive the collective (social) element before all else and to give it first place' led him to neglect 'the influence formative of institutions and beliefs of individuals'".[Ste85]. When Turner wrote his work, which brought to light Van Genneps work, central to this was 'Liminality' in which individuals go through three phases to complete their goal of human fulfillment. These phases of 'Separation, Liminal period and Assimilation' of which, the predominant characteristic being the 'Liminal Period', which defined the transitionary period of individuals. Turner illustrates "Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by the law, custom, convention and ceremonial"[Vic69].

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