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Trespass into the Liminal

Urban Exploration in Estonia

Francisco Martínez and Patrick Laviolette

This article outlines narratives of trespass. It analyses relations between the personal and the social in abandoned urban physical surroundings. Grounded in our own duo-auto-ethnographic encounters with off-limit places, the research examines the classic notion of liminality through a set of prisms that are less than orthodox. It does so by stressing the formative and transformative possibilities of those threshold spaces that often get bypassed, surpassed or trespassed. Through a series of vignettes describing moments of urban exploration in different parts of Estonia, our implicit aim is to unsettle such conceptual categories as risk and adventure, material decay and transgression. Explicitly, we argue for revisiting storytelling tropes such as the flâneur or the stalker, freeing them up from their respective leisure and pastime associations.

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Sally Baker and Eve Stirling

As technological developments accelerate, and neoliberal ideologies shift the ways that universities ‘do business’, higher education is facing radical changes. Within this context, students’ need to ‘succeed’ at university is more important than ever. Consequently, understanding students’ transitions within this shifting higher education landscape has become a key focus for universities. It is now pertinent to explore how social-networking sites (SNS) influence students’ experiences as they transition into university. In this article, we offer two ethnographic case studies of how students use one SNS (Facebook) as they travel through their first year of undergraduate study. We suggest that Facebook is used not only for dynamic participation in the social fabric of university life, Facebook is the go-to space to organise their academic and social lives, using it as a hybrid space to negotiate between home and university. As such, Facebook offers student-users a ‘liminal tool’ for negotiating and facilitating resources and networks within the first year at university.

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Liminality and Missing Persons

Encountering the Missing in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina

Laura Huttunen

In many armed conflicts, forced disappearances and hiding the bodies of victims of mass atrocities are used strategically. This article argues that disappearances are powerful weapons, as their consequences reach from the most intimate relations to the formation of political communities. Consequently, political projects of forced disappearances leave difficult legacies for post-conflict reconciliation, and they give rise to a need to address individuals’ and families’ needs as well as relations between national and political groups implicated in the conflict. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this articles explores the question of missing persons in post-1992 Bosnia. The processes of identification and practices of remembering and commemorating the missing are analyzed through the concept of liminality. The article argues that the future-oriented temporality of liminality gives rise to numerous practices of encountering the enigma of the missing, while the political atmosphere of postwar Bosnia restricts possibilities of communitas-type relationality across ethnonational differences.

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Migration, Empire, and Liminality

Sex Trade in the Borderlands of Europe

Tracie L. Wilson

In this article I analyze accounts from police and women’s activist documents from the turn of the twentieth century, which present narratives of sex trafficking in and from Galicia, an eastern borderland region of the Habsburg Empire. Both police and activist accounts underscore the image of innocent women forced into prostitution, although police accounts provide more variety and nuance regarding degrees of coercion and agency demonstrated by women. I examine what such narratives reveal about the role of crossing boundaries—an act central to both sex trafficking and efforts to maintain empire. In this context, I consider how the Habsburg authorities coped with and attempted to manage populations whose mobility appeared especially problematic. Although this research draws extensively from historical archives, my analysis is guided by perspectives from folklore studies and the anthropological concept of liminality.

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Dancing on the Threshold

A Cultural Concept for Conditions of Being Far from Salvation

Gregor Rohmann

“Dancing mania” and “St. Vitus dance” were culturally formed illness concepts that enabled late medieval people in the Rhine area to act out states of liminality. The semiotics of these trace back to ancient Platonic cosmology, which had been transmitted into medieval theology by late antique Neoplatonism. In this article the iteration of these motifs especially through the early and high Middle Ages is scrutinized. When “dancing mania” emerged in the fourteenth century it was thus neither an early case of mass hysteria nor a particular form of religious deviance, as is still assumed frequently.

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Alexandra Schwell

This article explores how the fluctuating cartography of East and West and the varying degrees of perceptive Europeanness influence everyday practices of the people working in Polish state bureaucracies, who professionally advance European integration within a national framework. While an important part of their self-image is formed through the dissociation from cultural 'Eastness' and the backwardness they ascribe to fellow citizens, they still experience negative stereotyping and mistrust from the part of the EU-15 'Westerners'. Consequently, East-Central European state officials oscillate on the continuum between cultural 'East' and 'West' and constantly negotiate distance, relatedness and thus their own liminal position. By scrutinising how Polish state officials aim at positioning themselves on the mental map of Europe, this article shows that they attempt to escape the cultural pattern of negative stereotyping and mistrust by using a functionalist narrative of efficiency. This is a rhetorical strategy employed to cope with existing asymmetries.

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Encompassing Empowerment in Ritual, War, and Assassination

Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities

Michael Roberts

This study highlights the Tantric threads within the transcendental religions of Asia that reveal the commanding role of encirclement as a mystical force. The cyanide capsule (kuppi) around the neck of every Tamil Tiger fighter was not only a tool of instrumental rationality as a binding force, but also a modality similar to a thāli (marriage bond necklace) and to participation in a velvi (religious animal sacrifice). It was thus embedded within Tamil cultural practice. Alongside the LTTE's politics of homage to its māvīrar (dead heroes), the kuppi sits beside numerous incidents in LTTE acts of mobilization or military actions where key functionaries approached deities in thanks or in preparation for the kill. These practices highlight the inventive potential of liminal moments/spaces. We see this as modernized 'war magic'—a hybrid re-enchantment energizing a specific religious worldview.

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Introduction

Locating Tween Girls

Melanie Kennedy and Natalie Coulter

We reflect on the media coverage of Amy “Dolly” Everett’s death by suicide to highlight the continued spectacularization of tweenhood as an idealized form of white feminine beauty tied to consumer culture, and one that shores up contradictory notions of the can-do/at-risk girl binary. We consider contemporary tweenhood’s continuities with the visibility and concerns of girlhood from the 1990s while questioning what a definition of tweenhood in the age of digital media and beyond the boundaries of whiteness, heteronormativity, able-bodiedness, and the Global North might look like. Calling for a discursive approach to understandings and conceptualizations of tweens, we introduce the eight articles in this special issue that range from media representations of the tween to lived experiences of actual tween girls.

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Mark Meyers

Despite their common roots in the phenomenological tradition, Jean- Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty differed markedly in the way they formulated the problem of being-in-the-world. As is well-known, Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943) emphasized the dualistic, oppositional, and even antagonistic relationship between human consciousness and the world inhabited by consciousness, while Merleau-Ponty, in texts such as Phenomenology of Perception (1945) and The Visible and the Invisible (1964, posthumous), conceptualised a kind of originary communion between consciousness and world that stressed their imbrication rather than their separateness.

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Bruce Kapferer

Gluckman and the Manchester School pioneered approaches in anthropology that are now commonplace. But they were interested in achieving generalizations of both a local and more global kind. Their central methodology was that of situational analysis and extended-case analysis, which are examined here as attempts to make anthropology, via its ethnographic field method, a scientific discipline that opened out to novel ideas and theories concerning the human condition. This essay critically assesses the thinking that underpinned the methodology of situational analysis and suggests some areas of redirection. The overall idea is to impart some sense of the spirit that motivated various aspects of the Manchester innovation, especially the politics that gave it some coherence, and the wider importance of its directions that are occasionally overlooked in reflections on the history of social anthropology.