Emergent work processes have prompted a growing interest for liminality in organization studies. Liminality was originally conceived of in anthropology to express the transition from a previous state or role to a future one. In the organizational realm, contingent work, work at the boundaries across different organizations, assumption of more roles within an organization, multiple careers pathways, and the handling of unexpected events have been interpreted as liminal experiences and comprehended through this lens, which this paper intends to analyze. We first delve into the core elements of a liminal experience according to Victor Turner’s view, i.e., rites, ceremonies, and symbols signaling the beginning, unfolding, and end of the passage; different perceptions of space and time; the communitas that develops between individuals sharing the same transition; the construction of an anti-structure whose rules and routines differ from those pertaining to established structures; engagement in identity work to modify, revise, and form personal and social identities. Based on Turner’s elaboration, accounts of liminal experiences in organizational settings are examined to highlight similarities and differences. Finally, the need to bring to convergence the original elaboration of liminality with the potential for its enrichment offered by the interpretation of organizational phenomena is discussed.
Keywords: Liminality, work processes, identity work, temporary work, consultancy, learning, practice.