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History[ edit ] J. Austin[ edit ] The term derives from the founding work in speech act theory by ordinary language philosopher J. Austinwho did not use the word "performativity", but did, beginning in the s, give the name performative utterances to situations where saying something was doing something, rather than simply reporting on or describing reality.
The paradigmatic case here is speaking the words "I do. It can only be judged either "happy" or "infelicitous", depending upon whether the conditions required for its success have been met. In this sense, performativity is a function of the pragmatics of language.
Having shown that all utterances perform actions, even apparently constative ones, Austin famously discarded the distinction between "performative" and "constative" utterances halfway through the lecture series that became the book and replaced it with a three-level framework: Austin's account of performativity has been subject to extensive discussion in philosophy, literature, and beyond.
Jacques DerridaShoshana FelmanJudith Butlerand Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick are among the scholars who have elaborated upon and contested aspects of Austin's account from the vantage point of deconstructionpsychoanalysisfeminismand queer theory.
Particularly in the work of feminists and queer theorists, performativity has played an important role in discussions of social change Oliver The concept of performativity has also been used in science and technology studies and in economic sociology.
Andrew Pickering has proposed to shift from a "representational idiom" to a "performative idiom" in the study of science. Michel Callon has proposed to study the performative aspects of economicsi.
Karen Barad has argued that science and technology studies deemphasize the performativity of language in order to explore the performativity of matter Barad Other uses of the notion of performativity in the social sciences include the daily behavior or performance of individuals based on social norms or habits.
Philosopher and feminist theorist Judith Butler has used the concept of performativity in her analysis of gender development, as well as in her analysis of political speech. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick describes queer performativity as an ongoing project for transforming the way we may define—and break—boundaries to identity.
Through her suggestion that shame is a potentially performative and transformational emotion, Sedgwick has also linked queer performativity to affect theory. Also innovative in Sedgwick's discussion of the performative is what she calls periperformativity In contrast to structuralism's focus on linguistic form, Austin had introduced the force of speech acts, which Derrida aligns with Nietzsche's insights on language.
In "Signature, Event, Context," Derrida focused on Austin's privileging of speech and the accompanying presumptions of the presence of a speaker "signature" and the bounding of a performative's force by an act or a context.
In a passage that would become a touchstone of poststructuralist thought, Derrida stresses the citationality or iterability of any and all signs. Every sign, linguistic or nonlinguistic, spoken or written in the current sense of this oppositionin a small or large unit, can be cited, put between quotation marks; in doing so it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable.
This does not imply that the mark is valid outside of a context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center or absolute anchorage [ancrage].
Or one whose origins would not get lost along the way? While he addressed the performativity of individual subject formation, Derrida also raised such questions as whether we can mark when the event of the Russian revolution went awry, thus scaling up the field of performativity to historical dimensions.
Gender performativity Philosopher and feminist theorist Judith Butler offered a new, more Continental specifically, Foucauldian reading of the notion of performativity, which has its roots in linguistics and philosophy of language.
Performative acts are types of authoritative speech. This can only happen and be enforced through the law or norms of the society. These statements, just by speaking them, carry out a certain action and exhibit a certain level of power.
Examples of these types of statements are declarations of ownership, baptisms, inaugurations, and legal sentences.
Something that is key to performativity is repetition. Performance theory and gender perspectives[ edit ] Butler sees gender as an act that has been rehearsed, much like a script, and that people, as actors who make a script a reality through repetition, come to perform in the mode of belief.
Butler sees gender not as an expression of what one is, rather as something that one does. Furthermore, she sees it not as a social imposition on a gender neutral body, but rather as a mode of "self-making" through which subjects become socially intelligible.
Theoretical criticisms[ edit ] There are several criticisms that have been raised against Butler's concept of performativity.The case at issue, which required the court to determine the legal sex of a post-operative transsexual, questioned the basic notion that male and female are fixed, immutable, and oppositional categories.
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