Liminal: readings and reflections from the boundary space
An introduction: This is liminality.
“a place where boundaries dissolve a little and we stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we are to be”
– Victor Turner
“While in the liminal state, human beings are stripped of anything that might differentiate them from their fellow human beings—they are in between the social structure, temporarily fallen through the cracks, so to speak, and it is in these cracks, in the interstices of social structure, that they are most aware of themselves.”
– Charles La Shure
Ever since I read, some years ago, these defining words on liminality, or liminal space – sometimes called the Boundary Space -, I’ve understood that as artist, writer, woman, mother, sister, daughter, friend and human being, I have occupied that kind of space. It is what I write about more than anything and often what I read about as well. There is a sense in much of what I read and observe, in all my work across media and genre, of being ever on the verge, of waiting for when, of stepping ahead of if only. Of standing on the bridge to becoming.
Some call it Otherness, and surely its roots are there. Yet Otherness is a static place, implying a certain lot in life, a certain resignation, whereas liminality refuses and rejects all of that. When we – when I – stand in the boundary space, we stand in authenticity, in perplexed awareness that we are not what we were before or more accurately, what we were considered to be; rather we cross over into our own beautiful, ugly, expansive, imperfect and evolved newly-freed selves.
It is not our collective or individual hard luck or misery that I hope to illuminate when I write or to find illuminated for me when I read, it is our process of emerging or our fledgling intent to emerge. This is a process that begins with a small seed of defiance, stuck perhaps, however briefly, in confusion and cognitive dissonance, in a realization that being ‘othered” is wrong and feels wrong but is not always visible to those around us, to our community. We are questioned, so we question ourselves. We are unable to fluently adopt new ways of being, thinking and living within relationships because we must first undo and let go of the old ways. And we must do it while holding onto the core of who we are. You can’t learn to breathe, I often say, until you learn to not not-breathe. And that is where we are when we stand in the boundary space.
I send you these reflections on the works of other writers – some quite well-known, some a little more obscure or perhaps a bit forgotten, perhaps in hiding or existing themselves as works on the edge – as they intersect with my own life here in the boundary space. I am Nina Adel the writer and Leila Levine the protagonist. I am liminal, becoming who I will be and lighting the lantern from within.
These are my words on readings and reflections from the Boundary Space.