Liminal spaces and Hong Kong: Metaphors of crisis and identity

Margo Turnbull, Amy Han Qiu, Alexandra Sanderson, Bernadette Watson

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Periods of localised social unrest are increasing in frequency and are usually described in terms of crisis. Events that unfold during these periods are often recounted retrospectively once a sense of stability has emerged. In contrast, this article contributes an empirical analysis of identity work undertaken by a group of individuals amid an unfolding crisis by drawing on interview data collected in one Hong Kong University across December 2019 and January 2020. We frame our analysis with the concept of liminality which draws attention to the space or state of in-between-ness occupied by people as they navigate and work to transition from ‘before’ to ‘after’ a time of great change. We explore linguistic representations of liminality by analysing the use of metaphors in these interview narratives. Metaphors, in this context, are considered key markers of complex cognitive and psychological processing. Findings of this analysis indicate the dominance of (dis)orientation to time and uncertainty about the future which are associated with liminality and identity work.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101017
JournalEmotion, Space and Society
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2024


  • Crisis
  • Identity
  • Liminality
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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