09.00  Liminality and/in Heritage: Examining the Potentials of a Known Concept

There is a broad consensus in heritage studies according to which heritage is understood as a socio-cultural process. In part, this is the result of a critical appraisal of previous attitudes that confined heritage mostly to objects at the expense of other social, cultural, and individual processes. Accordingly the place of human experience and performance over material objecthood is acknowledged. Following this shift and in more recent years there has been a growing attention to developing both methods and theories that seek to bring a different critical understanding to the process of heritage construction. The new set of approaches draw on theories such as performativity, actor-network theories, and non-representation theories in order to explain heritage processes. This paper seeks to contribute to the discussion in this regard. 

The paper will probe the potentials of liminality as formulated by Van Gennep, and Turner following him, for heritage studies. While liminality has been explored in tourism studies, there is further contribution to be made on its ramifications for heritage as a broader field. Here, I will draw on concrete examples from heritage sites to probe the application of Turner’s ideas—including comparative symbology, communitas, and the liminoid—to heritage. These examples are the Red Square in Moscow and Baku’s Old City (Icheri Sheher) and the area in its vicinity. Both sites have symbolic significance and are also constituted by various types of performance. Within these spaces a broad range of activities, intentions, and experiences coincide, which prompts us to query the type and extent of liminal experience on offer. I will also probe spatio-temporal interfaces that are integral to liminality, but are also strongly present in the construction and experience of heritage, concluding with an assessment of the potentials of liminality theory for understanding heritage.

Deakin University, Curtin University
Research Fellow, Adjunct Research Fellow

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