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Sociological Forum

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 379–406 | Cite as

The Liminal Effects of Social Movements: Red Guards and the Transformation of Identity

  • Guobin Yang
Article

Abstract

Social movements transform participants' identities. Why they do so is an unresolved puzzle. I argue that for participants, social movements are liminal phenomena characterized by varying degrees of freedom, egalitarianism, communion, and creativity. As such, the transformative power of social movements depends on their degree of liminality. Those that approximate most to the pure type of the liminal offer to the participants high degrees of freedom, egalitarianism, communion, and creativity. They transform identities most powerfully. In the 1960s, China's Red Guards experienced a profoundly liminal movement. As a result, an age-cohort that was coming of age began to recreate itself. The personal transformations of the Red Guards would persistently bear on Chinese politics and society up to the 1989 Chinese student movement.

liminality identity social movements Red Guards 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guobin Yang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Hawai'i-ManoaHonolulu

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