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Liminal Hotspots

Liminality swirl image
Chiming with a diagnosis of late modernity in which social systems which once appeared stable increasingly emphasise transience, the concept of liminal hospots is timely.

In April a Special Issue of Theory and Psychology, Liminal Hotspots, built upon work by the three editors – CCIG members Paul Stenner and Johanna Motzkau, and Goldsmiths College’s Monica Greco – carried out with funding secured from the European Science Foundation and supported by CCIG.

Chiming with a diagnosis of late modernity in which social systems which once appeared stable increasingly emphasise transience, flexible interconnection and agility as their only permanent attributes, the concept of liminal hospots is timely. They can be glossed as occasions in which people feel caught in the circumstances of a transition that has become permanent and ambiguity, uncertainty, and tension – experiences characteristically at play in transitional circumstances – acquire an enduring quality.

Initially coined by Paul Stenner, the term offers a theoretical linkage of the concept of liminality with that of affectivity. It was developed collaboratively with Johanna and Monica before being further elaborated in an international workshop and it is a sample of the results from this that are now presented in the Special Issue.

The opening paper from Greco and Stenner unpacks the process-theoretical basis of the concept and introduces a number of subsidiary concepts including paradox, paralysis, polarisation and pattern shift before providing concrete examples drawn from the field of health.

Taken together, the papers indicate the fecundity of the concept, and highlight some unexpected commonalities connecting problems that would usually be treated as if they were worlds apart. Of particular interest is the notion that liminal hotspots may be proliferating as part of the de-differentiating dynamic of late modern social systems dominated by the economic register and by the problematic of controlling unstable heterophonic social practices. It is thus at core a psychological concept, but one with rich transdisciplinary potential which, by focusing on embodied persons in social practice, follows a psychosocial orientation.

Access the Liminal Hotspots Special Issue.