… The seemingly fixed is really the continuously renewed. This model assumes that social reality is “fluid and indeterminate,” although regularizing processes continually transform it into organized or systematic forms.
This is from On the Edge of the Bush: Anthropology as Experience by Victor Turner (1985):
… [Writing in 1976, Sally Falk Moore] proposes that “the underlying quality of social life should be considered to be one of theoretically absolute indeterminacy.” Such indeterminacy is only partially reduced by culture and organized social life, “the patterned aspects of which are temporary, incomplete, and contain elements of inconsistency, ambiguity, discontinuity, contradiction, paradox, and conflict.” … [E]ven where rules and customs exist, “indeterminacy may be produced by the manipulation of the internal contradictions, inconsistencies, and ambiguities within the universe of relatively determinate elements.” For Moore, determining and fixing are processes, not permanent states. The seemingly fixed is really the continuously renewed. This model assumes that social reality is “fluid and indeterminate,” although regularizing processes continually transform it into organized or systematic forms.
[line break added to make this easier to read online] These, however, never completely lose their indeterminacy, and can slip back into an ambiguous or dismembered condition unless vigilantly attended. Moore calls the processes in which persons “arrange their immediate situations (and/or express their feelings and conceptions) by exploiting the indeterminacies of the situations or by generating such indeterminacy or by reinterpreting or redefining the rules or relationships, ‘process of situational adjustment.’ ” A major advance made by Moore in process theory is her proposal that processes of regularization and processes of situational adjustment “may each have the effect of stabilizing or changing an existing social situation or order.” Both should be taken into account whenever the complex relationships between social life and the continuously renewed web of meanings which is culture are being analyzed. Both types of process contain within themselves the possibility of becoming their schematic opposites, for strategies used in situational adjustment, if often repeated, may become part of processes of regularization.
… A caveat should be interpolated here. … Processual studies, as Moore has shown us, do not replace a research focus on regularity and consistency. They may, however, give us clues to the nature of forces of systemic maintenance even as they shed light on the countervailing forces of change. When I speak of structure here I am well aware of the phenomenological critique of structural-functionalism that it reifies social order and structure. Thus, I am in agreement with David Walsh’s comment that “the requirement for a sociological analysis of the problematic character of social order is a suspension of the belief in the facticity of that order so as to concentrate on the routine practices and procedures of interpretation by which members accomplish it in interactional settings.” But Walsh’s view that what is important is not formal rules but the procedures by which members demonstrate that activities are in accordance with the rule and therefore intelligible seems to me to put too much stress on what Moore would call processes of regularization and not enough on the processes of situational adjustment, which in certain cases may bring about a shift from regularity to indeterminacy. There is much merit in the phenomenological sociologists’ argument that in accounting for their actions in a rational way, group members are making those actions rational and thus making social life a coherent and comprehensible reality in a way that underlines the constructed nature of all reality …
… Sociologists … share their culture [with their subjects] and have to work hard at transforming the taken-for-granted into a fascinating object of study. Anthropologists, sensitized from the outside to the alienness of many of the symbols and meanings shared by those they investigate, often go on to discover what is extraordinary by any reckoning.
… there is an aspect of play in liminality. Huizinga’s Homo Ludens has sensitized anthropological thought to the play element in the construction and negotiation of meaning in culture, by his scrutiny of all kinds of playing from children’s games to the dialectic of philosophy and the judicial process. After him, play is a serious business! Not all play, of course, is reserved, in any society, for liminal occasions in the strict van Gennepian sense of ritual stages. In tribal societies, children and adults play games in nonritual leisure contexts. But the serious games which involve the play of ideas and the manufacture of religiously important symbolic forms and designs (icons, figurines, masks, sand-paintings, murals in sacred caves, statues, effigies, pottery emblems, and the like) are often, in traditional societies, reserved for authentically liminal times and places.
… Liminal monsters and dragons are compounded from various discriminata, each of them originally an element in the common sense construction of social reality. In a sense, they have the pedagogical function of stimulating the liminars’ powers of analysis and revealing to them the building blocks from which their hitherto taken-for-granted world has been constructed. But in another way they reveal the freedom, the indeterminacy underlying all culturally constructed worlds, the free play of mankind’s cognitive and imaginative capacities.
… for the dialectical negation [of Hegel and/or Marx] we should perhaps substitute liminality, a plurality of alternatives rather than the reversal or inversion of the antecedent condition. Moreover, the motor of historical dialectic is not so much a matter of quantitative increments cumulating to a qualitative change as deliberate formulations of human thought and imagination — often made in liminal situations, such as exile, prison, or even in an “ivory tower” — first presenting, and then perhaps backed up by organized action, a new vision. Liminality is a major source of change rather than the embodiment of a logical antithesis. Science is not mocked — but then neither is art. If what has been durably regarded as the “interesting” by the informed opinion of thousands of years of human attention cannot be incorporated into the serious study of mankind, then that study is surely in the hands of the “philistines” — the “bourgeois and the bolshevik” of D.H. Lawrence — who were so intent on securing by force general assent to their opposed views on the nature of material property (one said “private” should be the basic label, the other “public”) that the richness and subtlety of human “immaterial” culture (especially, one might add, its liminal constructions) escaped this Tweedledum-and-Tweedledee pair of dedicated materialists.