Theorising Liminality between Art and Life: The Liminal Sources of Cultural Experience

Stenner, Paul (2021). Theorising Liminality between Art and Life: The Liminal Sources of Cultural Experience. In: Wagoner, Brady and Zittoun, Tania eds. Experience on the edge: Theorizing Liminality. Theory and history in the human and social sciences. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 3–42.



This contribution offers a psychosocial theorisation of the notion of cultural experience / experiencing. Building upon interdisciplinary scholarship on liminality, and developing some insights from Donald Winnicott, an argument is developed which brings to light the distinctively liminal sources of cultural experience. A liminal experience, in a nutshell, involves a temporary suspension of limits that permits a transition to a new set of limits. For this reason, liminality concerns the emergence of novelty just at the moment in which ‘something’ is in process of becoming. Schütz’s phenomenological notion of a ‘world of everyday life’ permits two related contrasts: first a contrast between the relative stability of a workaday canonical ‘world’ of experience and action, and a number of artfully enacted ‘worlds within worlds’ such as art, play and sport; and second a contrast between both of these and circumstances of transition in which people find themselves in a phase of becoming that is ‘between worlds’. It is proposed that cultural experiencing be grasped as liminal experience of a world within a world that happens between worlds: a world-within-and-between-worlds. This idea that cultural experience or cultural experiencing has its source in liminal transition is illustrated through a number of examples.

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