Charisma, Liminality, and Freedom: Toward a Theory of the Everyday Extraordinary



Following the metaphor of “boulders in the stream” of anthropology proposed by Stephan Schwartz (2000) and carried on by subsequent articles in Anthropology of Consciousness, this article proposes an alternate set of “boulders” that may serve the study of consciousness: Weberian charisma (as developed by Charles Lindholm), Turner's liminality, and Johannes Fabian's notion of “moments of freedom.” These constructs highlight how individuals, even entire communities, at times create new institutions, relationships, and identities despite inhibiting constraints of discourse and power. Ethnographic evidence from a Puerto Rican Protestant church-sponsored school suggests that, though short-lived, these instances are sufficiently common to merit the term “everyday extraordinary.” The article argues that this framing, like George P. Hansen's “Trickster,” may help anthropologists of consciousness account for phenomena that have hitherto been unexplainable by positivist science; additionally, it may help anthropologists “catch” important aspects of contemporary social and political processes characterized by charisma, liminality, and freedom.