September 18: The Centre Out There. Communitas, Liminality and the Turners
Rubenstein, Jeffrey. “Purim, Liminality, and Communitas.” AJS Review, 17, 2 (1992): pp. 247-
277 [E] and at http://hebrewjudaic.as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/2597/PurimLiminality.pdf
• ◦ PURIM, LIMINALITY, AND COMMUNITASJEFFREY RUBENSTEINAR
• Victor Turner studied the ritual and social processes that occurred during
intervals(stages) in the normally structured state of society.
• By social structure Turner means the matrix of roles, statues, and positions, governed
by social phenomena such as law, custom, institution, and cultural tradition.
• Normally social structure is hierarchal and characterized by differences in status, while
social relationships are mediated by power and statue.
• At certain times, however, the web of normal social relationships, the structural elements,
appear to dissolve.
• Society enters what Turner calls a "LIMINAL" time- a " betwixt and between" or
• NO LONGER DO POWER AND PRIVILEGE, STATUS AND ROLE, LAW AND
INSTITUTION DETERMINE SOCIAL RELATEDNESS. (TRIP TO MECCA ALL
MUSLIMS ARE PRAYING AS ONE)
• Society enters a " time outside of time" where alternative modalities of social relatedness
• The most common modality of social organization that takes place within liminality is
• As opposed to societas, or structure, COMMUNITAS, is charactered by equality,
immediacy, and the lack of social ranks and roles
• A levelling process brings about the dissolution of structure, the absence of social
distinctions, a homogenization of roles, the disappearance of political allegiance, the
breakdown of regular borders and barriers
• With the suspension of status distinctions human beings recognize the core humanity
• Relationships are immediate and spontaneous
• COMMUNITAS strives to release from daily obligations and requirements, and seeks
• Whereas societies function to define the differences between individuals, limit their
interaction, and pull them apart, COMMUNITAS serves to unify, bond, and
transcend structural relationships
• BY DOING SO, COMMUNITAS REMINDS SOCIETY THAT AT A DEEPER
LEVEL ALL OF ITS MEMBERS ARE HUMAN AND EQUAL, DESPITE THE
ACCEPTED SOCIAL AND HIERARCHAL DIFFERENCES.
• Liminal periods generally manifest themselves in terms of Communitas, in some cases a
oral status inversion occurs. • During ritually defined timed such as an initiation of a King or a season festival, the entire
society may enter an overarching liminal mode, when statues, roles, and peer
relationships are reversed.
• Members of a society who ordinaryily occupy positions of inferior status assume dominant