Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 9: Liminality and the politics of the transitional

Maria Mälksoo


This chapter addresses transitions in world politics through the lens of the concept of liminality. Liminality refers to the middle stage and consequent positioning of subjects in transition between socially established categories. Comparative Politics and International Relations (IR) tend to focus on states in transit, generally understanding politics through an institutionalist lens and thus lacking the depth of the internal meanings of transition as experienced by the communities and people in question. Taking a critical stance on the narrow transition paradigm in the study of international politics, the optic of liminality helps reorient the thinking of politics in the moment of transition via two examples, namely, transitional justice and the transformation of contemporary warfare. Russia’s idiosyncratic policies of reckoning with the violent legacies of its predecessor, the USSR, and its ongoing engagement in the war in Ukraine serve as illustrations of both lines of inquiry pursued here.

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