World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Victor Turner

Victor Witter Turner (May 28, 1920 – December 18, 1983) was a British cultural anthropologist best known for his work on symbols, rituals and rites of passage. His work, along with that of Clifford Geertz and others, is often referred to as symbolic and interpretive anthropology.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Death 3
  • Influence 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Victor Turner was born in Glasgow, Scotland, son to Norman and Violet Turner. His father was an electrical engineer and his mother a repertory actress who founded the Scottish National Players. Turner initially studied poetry and classics at the University College London. In 1941, Turner was drafted into World War II, and served as a noncombatant until 1944. During his three years of service he met and married Edith Turner; their children include scientist Robert Turner and poet Frederick Turner. He returned to University College in 1946 with a new focus on anthropology. He later pursued graduate studies in anthropology at Manchester University.[1]


Turner worked as research officer for the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. It was through the position that Turner started his lifelong study of the Ndembu tribe of Zambia. He completed his PhD in 1955. Like many of the Manchester anthropologists of his time, he also became concerned with conflict, and created the new concept of social drama in order to account for the symbolism of conflict and crisis resolution among Ndembu villagers. Turner spent his career exploring rituals. As a professor at the University of Chicago, Turner began to apply his study of rituals and rites of passage to world religions and the lives of religious heroes.

Turner explored Arnold van Gennep's threefold structure of rites of passage and expanding theories on the liminal phase. Van Gennep's structure consisted of a pre-liminal phase (separation), a liminal phase (transition), and a post-liminal phase (reincorporation). Turner noted that in liminality, the transitional state between two phases, individuals were "betwixt and between": they did not belong to the society that they previously were a part of and they were not yet reincorporated into that society. Liminality is a limbo, an ambiguous period characterized by humility, seclusion, tests, sexual ambiguity, and communitas.

Turner was also a committed ethnographer and produced work on ritual.


Turner died on December 18, 1983 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After his death, his widow Edith Turner embarked on her own career as an anthropologist. She developed upon Victor's "anthropology of experience" with a publication on communitas.[2]


Author Chuck Palahniuk was quoted in The Believer as saying, "So often what I’m doing is dramatizing the writings of Victor Turner, who wrote a lot about liminal and liminoid events."[3]


  1. ^ Turner, Edith (1990). "The Literary Roots of Victor Turner's Anthropology". In Kathleen M. Ashley. Victor Turner and the Construction of Cultural Criticism. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. pp. 163–169. 
  2. ^ Turner, Edith (December 2011). Communitas: The Anthropology of Collective Joy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 
  3. ^

External links

  • Babcock, Barbara A., & Macaloon, John J (January 1987), "Commemorative essay: Victor W. Turner (1920-1983)",  
  • Graham St John (ed.) 2008. Victor Turner and Contemporary Cultural Performance. New York: Berghahn. ISBN 1-84545-462-6.
  • Victor Turner, by Beth Barrie
  • Deflem, Mathieu. 1991. “Ritual, Anti-Structure, and Religion: A Discussion of Victor Turner’s Processual Symbolic Analysis.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30(1):1-25.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.