Special Issue on Critical Performativity in M@n@gement

*Special issue – Putting Critical Performativity to work – 20(1)* Available here: http://www.management-aims.com/index.php?l=en


*Introduction To The Special Issue: The evolving debate about critical performativity*

Isabelle Huault, Véronique Perret, André Spicer, Dan Kärreman.


*Conditions for critical performativity in a polycontextural society*

Morten Knudsen (Copenhagen Business School)

*Abstract.* This paper argues that practice, not science, decides the performativity of science. The argument is inspired by Austin’s question of what it is that gives language its performative force. What are the conditions which connect sentences to certain effects? Advancing this question from the level of sentences to a societal level, and taking inspiration from the failure of Marxist notions of the relation between theory and practice, the paper suggests thinking critical performativity under the conditions of differentiation. This idea is qualified by means of Niklas Luhmann and his theory of a functionally differentiated – or polycontextural – society. Functional differentiation and polycontexturality mean that systems cannot communicate with each other; there is no real transfer of scientific knowledge into practice. Unhappy performativity is the rule. Based on this insight the paper discusses elements of a critical research strategy – under polycontextural conditions – and four guidelines for a critical science are suggested.

*How can performativity contribute to management and organization research? Theoretical Perspectives and analytical framework*

Franck Aggeri (MINES ParisTech)

*Abstract.* The issue of performativity reverse the classical perspective in the social sciences, for they revolve less around describing a pre-existing reality than understanding how reality is produced by intentional interventions. Yet the link between intervention and performativity is by no means automatic. On the contrary, this approach encourages us to focus on the pragmatic conditions that allow this performation to be constructed. In this sense, the aim of this article is threefold. First, it expands the field of performativity, which is structured around three dominant approaches (Austinian, Callonian and Butlerian), to encompass lesserknown research on writing and calculation. Second, it proposes a comparison between theoretical perspectives of research on performativity, and two other research trends in social science and in organizations. These, without using the term performativity, present strong similarities to it from a theoretical and methodological point of view: Foucauldian approaches and instrument-based approaches to organizations. Based on the concepts thus introduced, this article then proposes an analysis framework for performation processes in organizations, articulated around three levels of analysis: i) the study, on an elementary level, of speech acts, acts of calculation, and acts of writing organized around instrumented activities; ii) their insertion within the management dispositifs that give them meaning and contribute to defining their boundaries; and iii) the putting into perspective of these dispositifs in historical transformations in forms of governmentality. This analytical framework is applied in the case of the car project referred to as L, an instance of collaborative research in which a crisis situation characterized by the disalignment between the elementary acts studied and the management dispositif implemented by the company was examine. This case illustrates a more general phenomenon in which management dispositifs produce negative effects on the skills dynamics in a company, and on individuals’ involvement in these collective projects. It also explains the infelicity of certain performative acts.

*Art performance as research, friction and deed*

Emilie Reinhold (Stockholm Business School)

*Abstract.* To extend and enrich the debate on critical performativity, this paper proposes that critical management studies should create a strategic link with organisational aesthetics through an alliance with critical artists doing interventions in organisations. These artists produce social change at the margin of organisations and our task as critical researchers is to give a voice to their artistic action in the field of management. Art performance is presented as a research method and a political action able to give critical performativity a new impulse. Two dance performances in a bank are described and analysed: while the first one is a failure the second produces confusion and embodied tension in the bank’s lounges. The aesthetic tactics used in this art performance are counter-performative: dancers introduce slowness and hesitation of bodies in a context of extreme closure and discipline. Art performance is described as a deed: its only value is that it could be done, which calls for more artistic action in corporate everyday life.

*Critical Performativity and Embodied Performing as materio-socio-cultural Practices – Phenomenological Perspectives on performative Bodies at work*

Wendelin Küpers (ICN Business School)

*Abstract.* One of the most elementary way in which members in organisations are involved in their performances are their embodied and expressed relations and interactions. The paper shows how phenomenology can help to render explicit these incorporated experiences and dimensions of performances in organizational life-worlds. Particularly, Merleau-Ponty`s phenomenology allows to understand the interlacing role of body-related, interrelations of performing processes in and through organising. These embodied dimensions of performance will be demonstrated by examples of performative bodies at work. By concluding some perspectives on embodied performing in organisation are offered.

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