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Performance and Performativity


Performativity: Poiesis (intercorporeal 'making')

Performative: Praxis (intersubjective 'doing')

Gregson and Rose (2000) distinguish performance and performativity in the following way:

"...our argument is that performance - what individual subjects do, say, 'act-out' - and performativity - the citational practices which reproduce and/or subvert discourse and which enable and discipline subjects and their performances - are intrinsically connected, through the saturation of performers with power."

From the perspective of narrative environments, Gregson and Rose (2000) indicate that their argument needs to be extended to space:

"Space too needs to be thought of as brought into being through performances and as a performative articulation of power."

Finally, they emphasise the importance of recognising "the complexity and uncertainty of performances and performed spaces".


Gregson, N. and Rose, G. (2000) Taking Butler elsewhere: performativities, spatialities and subjectivities.
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18, pp. 433-452.

See also Performativity theorists

“You are more than entitled to know what the word ‘performative’ means. It is a new word and an ugly word, and perhaps it does not mean anything very much. But at any rate there is one thing in its favour, it is not a profound word. I remember once when I had been talking on this subject that somebody afterwards said: ‘You know, I haven’t the least idea what he means, unless it could be that he simply means what he says’.”
Austin, J. L. (1970). Philosophical papers. 2nd ed.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

"All bodies, not merely "human" bodies, come to matter through the world's...performativity."
Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28 (3), pp.801-831.

“The last two decades or so have seen a small paradigm shift throughout the arts and humanities. Where, not so long ago, everything was regarded as ‘text’ or ‘discourse’, scholars are now more likely to talk about ‘performance’ and ‘the performative’ and ‘the body’ or ‘the bodily’. It is easy to be cynical about fashionable jargon, but, when cogently employed, the nomenclature does suggest, if not a revolution, then a significant shift in emphasis.”
Heile, B. (2006). Recent approaches to experimental music theatre and contemporary opera, Music & Letters, 87 (1), pp.72-81.

The illocutionary, the performative and collective assemblages of enunciation: Order words and social obligation

In A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari make the distinction between the performative, as that which one does by saying it, for example, I swear by saying "I swear", and the illocutionary, as that which one does in speaking, for example, I ask a question by saying "Is...?", I make a promise by saying "I love you..." and I give a command by using the imperative, and so on. In this way, they make the performative sphere (doing by saying) part of a larger illocutionary sphere (what one does in saying). Thus, they argue,

"The performative itself is explained by the illocutionary, not the opposite. It is the illocutionary that constitutes the nondiscursive or implicit presuppositions. And the illocutionary is in turn explained by collective assemblages of enunciation, by juridical acts or equivalents of juridical acts, which, far from depending on subjectification proceedings or assignations of subjects in language, in fact determine their distribution... these "statements-acts" assemblages...in each language delimit the role and range of subjective morphemes." (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988: 78)

They call these illocutionary acts, these
"statements-acts" assemblages, "order-words". They continue,

"Order-words do not concern commands only, but every act that is linked to statements by a "social obligation". Every statement displays this link, directly or indirectly. Questions, promises, are order-words. The only possible definition of language is the set of all order-words, implicit presuppositions, or speech acts current in a language at a given moment." (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988: 79)

For Deleuze and Guattari, the relation between the statement and the act is internal or immanent. It is not one of identity, however, but of redundancy. Given this,

"Language is neither informational nor communicational. It is...the transmission of order-words, either from one statement to another or within each statement, insofar as each statement accomplishes an act and the act is acomplished in the statement." (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988: 79)

In this way, the collective assemblage of enunciation is the redundant complex of the act and the statement that necessarily accomplishes it. These acts, in turn, are the set of all incorporeal transformations in a given society, and these incorporeal transformations are attributed to the bodies of that society.


Performance and Performativity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlosJ7zNx3k
Performative utterances: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Performative-utterance
Doerge, C. Much ado about 'performatives'. Available at http://homepages.uni-tuebingen.de/friedrich-christoph.doerge/Doerge%20-%20Much%20Ado%20About%20Performative%20Utterances.pdf. Accessed 21 May 2009


NT: Improvisation
Scripted performance
Unscripted performance

Performing a gesture
Performing a task
Performing an act
Performing an act (theatrical; pretending; theatrical acting; meta-acting, acting-about-acting)
Thespian performativity
Performing an act (instrumental-operational)
Performing an act (moral-ethical)
Performing an act (interpersonal-perlocutionary)
Performing a role (theatrical)
Performing a role (labour-employment)
Performing a job
Performing a service (labour-employment-professional)
Performing an experience (service economy-experience economy)

Performing together (ensemble performance)
Organised ensembles
Self-organising ensembles
Collaborative performance
Division of labour collective performance
Assemblage (assembled, ensemble assembly)

Performing as lying
Performing as joking
Performing as entertaining (putting on a performance, but not on a stage)
Performing as appearing to an audience (on stage or in more mundane situations)
Performing as gaming

RT: Performativity

SN: A performative utterance does something rather than states something. A good example is uttering "I promise to come" which makes a promise, i.e. engages a consequence or an expectation, which may be be fulfilled or broken, i.e. may be successful or unsuccessful in its realisation.

More generally, a performative act is a performance that is formative. It shapes and conditions the world that it describes. In this way, it is language, act and context (conditionality and environmentality) at once. It implies commitment to or disagreement about a commonly accepted ground and social obligation, in the form of expectations, which, once invoked, would have to be explicitly refused. In relation to narrative, performativity can be considered within the story, e.g. the chain of expectations set up and how they are fulfilled or subverted, and in the relation between the story and the world, e.g. how the story performs in the context of particular social practices.
UF: Illocutionary act
RT: Constative
Perlocutionary act
Illocutionary act

SN: Performance covers many forms of agency, for example, one can perform an action, one can perform a task, one can perform a role, but in performativity the action-task-role performance is accompanied by performance as framing, the performance of contextualisation which articulates the intended meaning of that act, task or performance. The process of performing context or contextualisation is always conditional, provisional and, to a degree, improvisational. Performative action responds to situational factors in the moment, following a script where valid but improvising where necessary; it can be agreed or disputed by others; it can be accepted or rejected by others. In small-scale situations, it opens out into a process of dialogue, retrospective-prospectivel enactment of presence.
RT: Contract

Perlocutionary act
RT: Performative
Illocutionary act

Illocutionary act
RT: Performative
Perlocutionary act

Allan Parsons,
Mar 20, 2009, 7:14 AM