Sunday, March 22, 2009

Borders and in-between spaces

I've been thinking about the liminal lately. Mostly because of two of my classes, Variations in Human Sexuality and World History, the subject keeps grabbing my attention. I find it intriguing how various societies react to liminality, that undefined region removed form normality.

For many, mostly polytheistic societies, viewed liminal experiences as a rite of passage. Think of societies which practiced institutionalized intergenerational homosexuality, the Greeks most famously, the Hua, the Sambia, some evidence even suggests early Germanic tribes. For them the liminal is seen as a space where male adolescents undergo a learning process part of which involved sex with his adult mentor as a means of passing maleness or knowledge through semen. In stories the liminal is celebrated as a space the hero must move through and undergo a series of challenges and tests, the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh.

For some, monotheistic societies, Zoroastrian and Jewish, liminality was seen as a moral hazard, chaos which must be guarded against at all costs, hence proscriptions on homosexuality.

Is it the need to forge identity in a hostile world, their dualistic natures which see things as black and white, good or evil, or something else?

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