Liminality, Anthropology, and the Global Organization

  • Julia C. Gluesing
Keywords: Global organization, complexity, ambiguity, change, multinationals, boundary-crossing, liminality


Turner described liminality as a “realm of pure possibility” that can give rise to novel configurations of ideas within a ritual framework, while Bourdieu referred to liminality as a “space of possibles.” One of the greatest challenges managers and their employees face in multinational enterprises that cross multiple boundaries is the increased complexity brought about by ambiguity, multiplicity, interdependence, and constant, rapid change. Working in global organizations means operating simultaneously in multiple contexts. Anthropologists can make a contribution to an understanding of global work by managing ambiguity and crossing boundaries; by living and working liminally―something acquired in both anthropological training and through experience; and by bringing creativity to the forefront to foster global understanding.