From Linguistic Performativity to Social Performance

The Development of a Concept

Authored by: Moya Lloyd

Routledge International Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory

Print publication date:  March  2011
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415548250
eBook ISBN: 9780203875575
Adobe ISBN: 9781135997946


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From its earliest formulation in the work of philosopher J. L. Austin through to its contemporary uses in the fields of anthropology, literary studies, sociology, economics, cultural studies, film and media, and politics, performativity has become one of the most important theoretical approaches of recent times. As an approach, however, it is far from uniform. In the hands of diverse thinkers too many to name, the concept of performativity has been interpreted and reinterpreted in a range of distinct ways, with the result that what it means and the theoretical ends to which it is put often diverge significantly. Moreover, these assorted theorizations of the performative have, themselves, been turned in plural directions. Since it would be impossible to trace all these competing articulations in a single chapter, this one will concentrate on those that, to date at least, have been the most influential in terms of social and political thought. As many of these take their theoretical bearings from Austin and as language continues to be one of the focal points for discussions of performativity, this is where we will begin.

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