In-between

The in-between refers to a space between (two) persons or objects. It can also mean a period or stage between two clearly definable points in time. Characteristic of the in-between is that it is undefined. It has no clear boundaries or qualities, because these are determined by the dynamics of the relations between persons or objects, and by periods of transition and change.

Despite this indeterminate character, the in-between can be understood as what actually is in the space between, as an inter-est in the literal sense of the word (Latin inter means „between,” est means „is”). It can therefore not be effaced or erased, no matter how close persons, objects, or periods approach each other.

The in-between—especially in its spatial form—gains importance in a context (like that of the declining patriarchal order) that aims to reconfigure relations with the other—be it person or concept – from a dualistic pattern, or one aiming at synthesis of opposites, towards a more horizontal mode of forming these relations. 

In this horizontal, non hierarchical mode, the in-between guards the difference between one and the other by separating them. It protects the otherness of the other from being erased through a gesture of identification („I am just like you, we are identical”), or the construction of a strong union or a ‘we’ („we are one and nothing can come between us”). Both gestures ignore the in-between and thereby the uniqueness of the other as well as her or his freedom to become. Respect for the in-between allows everyone to appear in her or his uniqueness or irreducible difference. 

However, the in-between not only separates, it also connects people with each other. They are joined in and through this space, making this in-between an „inter-esse”, a space (that is) between, a site or time of tension and excitement, of (co-)creativity or revelation, both in love relations and in the public political domain.

In both domains the in-between becomes a space where people can speak and exchange views about what is of interest to all involved; about what is between them – inter -esse- as a common or contested good, or as a relational network. It is precisely in this exchange in the shared space that a practice of respect and recognition of the in-between space becomes an indispensable ethical prerequisite for a good life for all, because it enables us to blossom and be whoever we are, whoever we are capable of being and are supposed to be.

The first step of such a practice is the passion of wonder when encountering the other. For by wondering who the other might be, the in-between is generated as a space that guards both the subject’s status and each one’s uniqueness. 

This practice becomes particularly relevant in the context of raising natals, who are born into a relational web that nurtures them while growing. Those who form this relational texture must respect and acknowledge the in-between, if an adolescent is to discover and develop her or his uniqueness and dignity. 

Anne-Claire Mulder, An Ethics of the In-Between: Condition of Possibility of Being and Living Together, In: Pamela Sue Anderson (ed), New Topics in Feminist Philosophy of Religion. Contestations and Transcendence Incarnated, Dordrecht, New York, London, 2010, p. 297-318.

Anne-Claire Mulder, Sigridur Gudmansdottir, Erla Karlsdottir, In-Be-Tween, in: Journal of the European Society of Women in Theological Research 21, 2013, p. 7-12. http://www.eswtr.org/en/journal

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