Beyond Turner’s Liminal Community: The Perpetual Crisis of Politics and the Everyday


  • Daniel Hignell-Tully



The social anthropologist Victor Turner describes the process of a communitas as orientated around crisis - a liminal stage by which the community compensates for any breaches within their existing understanding of the world. As a liminal stage, crisis is the means by which a community remains politically active, in so far as it relies on the local, autonomous management of change to the lived environment. This paper seeks to explore the nature of communication as a tool of crisis, arguing that the community relies upon a network of crisis occurring both from first-hand and communally-derived communication, for which it is the distance between its membership that allows a community to flourish. Invoking the critical theory of Jean-Luc Nancy, and systems theory of Niklas Luhmann to interrogate such a network, I will argue that it is the performed misuse of a communities shared symbols that allows it to maintain political resonance. With this in mind, I will propose that the advent of what I term ‘perpetual crisis’ seeks to fundamentally undermine such a resonance, usurping the lived crisis of our everyday interactions with Other, in favour of a perpetual state of epistemological violence that exists beyond the limits of our control.  Exploring the tone and utility of political language within the mainstream media, I will seek to draw a parallel between the narrative disjunction of politicians and their policies as a means of highlighting the imposition of a crisis that impedes communitas by distancing a communities membership from meaningful political redress.