The futures of agency
Exploring the liminal spaces between action and responsibility
25 October 2023 (Wednesday), 17:00-18:30, imagine2

Learning to Love Walking against the Wind: The interface of complexity, chaos, and liminality.

This presentation will explore the adjacent conceptual spaces of complex adaptive systems theory, chaos theory, post-normal times theory, and liminality. Futures studies is inherently focussed on turbulence and chaos, and how people as complex adaptive systems respond to the turbulence of change. Postnormal Times Theory attempts to analyze heightened moments of turbulent transition, as we teeter on the cusp between our old comforts and discomforts and the abyss of turbulent transformation, between ‘the no longer and the not yet.’ This is very nearly the definition of the liminal space: liminality refers to a state of flux and in-between-ness in which the dominant or governing logic of a given situation is temporarily suspended.
As futures studies emphasises critical reflection, de-colonization, and creative particularisation, the dynamics of liminality offer a particularly useful process frame for reflection, suspension, undoing, and reconstruction, of human systems generally, but also of futures studies itself: Turner posits that, if liminality is regarded as a time and place of withdrawal from normal modes of social action, it potentially can be seen as a period of scrutiny for central values and axioms of the culture where it occurs.
It opens up the potential for new rituals to cross over and through the liminal threshold to the emergent. van Gennep (1909) initially defined liminality as an intermediate ritual phase during initiation, where new social rules are taught, and “strong, endearing, and creative bonds often develop between fellow initiates.” What are the endearing and enduring rules and roles for transformation?