Posts Tagged ‘Limit’

the physical presence of the liminal

In Arcades, Promenades on May 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm

At St Pancras Station there is an instance of the liminal made physical because the there is a division within the station between the internal (sub-urban & national) rail system and the international (eurostar) rail system.  The international is made present at the station and there is a clear sense in which to be in one space is to be in one status (stand in Weber’s sense) and to be in the other space is to be in another status.  As these to status-spaces share the same volume and because the status transformation involved is problematic and socially difficult (the national/international is always a significant division) there is a strict regulation, strict enforcement, of the distinction between the two (principally  marked by ‘passport control’).

One of the means of policing this division is found in what is now the upper level of the station; a glass wall.

the physical presence of the liminal

This wall seems to be the very epitome of transparency and openness but this is merely the appearance as it is of course a fortification.  Moreover, it is a governmentally regulated fortification whose restrictions extend beyond the merely physical.

the sign of the discreet functioning of governmentality

This is all indicative of the need to treat such actually transformative and problematic spaces as hazards requiring tight control and classification.  What is at stake here is the Purity and Danger (Douglas 2002) of liminal spaces.  Liminality involves transformation and socio-cultural movement and all societies seem to require the tightest regulation of such movement; preferring the classificatory status quo to any instability of categories.

the orientation of the boundary marks the play of power

the reflective surface of this boundary is more connotationally significant than we at first assume

the purpose of this division and distinction becomes clear when we consider its fucntion

This manifestation of the limit is atypical in its urgent efforts to disappear from plain sight and give the appearance of not being there but the network of power relations this is the expression of are utterly typical.  The liminal is always policed because the system of power in a society cannot bear to much status (stand) disruption.

here the shared light in the volume masks the divisions and distinctions of the space

the volume masks the division and distinction between the two spaces

here the 'international' space can be seen to be 'overwriting' the 'national' space

In the case of St Pancras liminality is managed and policed by allowing one space (the international) to ‘overwrite’ the other (the national) so that the purity of the two is aggressively maintained.