Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts

By Bill Ashcroft; Gareth Griffiths et al. | Go to book overview

L

liminality This term derives from the word 'limen', meaning threshold, a word particularly used in psychology to indicate the threshold between the sensate and the subliminal, the limit below which a certain sensation ceases to be perceptible. The sense of the liminal as an interstitial or in-between space, a threshold area, distinguishes the term from the more definite word 'limit' to which it is related.

The importance of the liminal for post-colonial theory is precisely its usefulness for describing an 'in-between' space in which cultural change may occur: the transcultural space in which strategies for personal or communal self-hood may be elaborated, a region in which there is a continual process of movement and interchange between different states. For instance, the colonized subject may dwell in the liminal space between colonial discourse and the assumption of a new 'non-colonial' identity. But such identification is never simply a movement from one identity to another, it is a constant process of engagement, contestation and appropriation.

Homi Bhabha quotes the art historian Renee Green's characterization of a stairwell as a 'liminal space, a pathway between upper and lower areas, each of which was annotated with plaques referring to blackness and whiteness' (Bhabha 1994:4) to indicate how the liminal can become a space of symbolic interaction. That is, the stairwell, the liminal, prevents identities from polarizing between such arbitrary

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Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Routledge Key Guides ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Key Concepts vii
  • Introduction 1
  • A 4
  • B 23
  • C 29
  • D 63
  • E 76
  • F 99
  • G 110
  • H 116
  • I 122
  • L 130
  • M 132
  • N 148
  • O 165
  • P 174
  • R 198
  • S 209
  • T 230
  • U 235
  • W 238
  • Bibliography 243
  • Name Index 265
  • Subject Index 270
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