I’m working on a post about The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and in the course of thinking about the characters, liminality has come up a lot.
Liminal places are in-between: Thresholds, passages, borders… Places for departures, and arrivals. Places, sometimes, for waiting. Places for people who didn’t fit anywhere else.
Liminal characters are multifaceted, or in-between… They have more than one relevant identity, personality, name… More than one homeland, family, culture, shape…
A lot of queer and/or trans* characters are liminal in some ways… to the point where these kinds of liminal identities are often taken as, or intended to be, symbols of queerness.
A lot of bi- or multi-cultural, -lingual, -racial, -ethnic, etc. characters illustrate and interact with liminality. Immigrants and refugees… Fugitives or spies… Traders, explorers, conquerors… Hostages… Those who leave the familiar for love, knowledge, freedom… Second- and third- generation immigrants, people with mixed ancestry, people with heritage in places that no longer exist… (That might describe the majority of people on Earth now or throughout history. We are always leaving homes and making new ones, finding, building, claiming our new lives…)
Liminality can mean showing different faces, or speaking different tongues, as needed. I don’t think characters who engage in code-switching are necessarily liminal figures, but they often seem to be. Slaves who are warriors. Gods who are slaves. Heroes disgraced. People rescued or repatriated, whether or not they wish to be.
What does liminality mean to you? What is its importance in your life? Who are your favorite liminal characters, in texts or works of any kind?