Declining Performativity: Butler, Whitehead and Ecologies of Concern

Bell, Vikki. 2012. Declining Performativity: Butler, Whitehead and Ecologies of Concern. Theory, Culture & Society, 29(2), pp. 107-123. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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This article explores what might happen to the concept of performativity within arguments that are understood as ‘topological’. It argues that we might ‘decline’ performativity, which is to say, elaborate the concerns that are expressed in the concept, but inclining it more boldly towards the com- plexities of a world whose elements are always in process of constitution, of reiterative enfolding. Taking a cue from Isabelle Stengers’ recent work in which she posits the notion of ecologies of practice, on the one hand, and Whitehead’s concept of concern, on the other, the paper argues that emer- gent entities have differential requirements – not least according to the dis- ciplines to which they appeal – and subtend different modes of implied obligation. An adherence to these requirements needs to be accompanied by persuasive presentation that obliges a community to affirm any entity. On many levels of abstraction, ecologies need to show concern for an entity to facilitate its emergence and to sustain its mode of being. In an expanded vision, then, human and non-human entities at all levels enter into multifar- ious relational modes of becoming, but these become of sustained conse- quence only through persuasion of communities, sometimes organized into disciplines. The survival of entities requires forms of differentiation, division and of value. The paper relates these arguments to forms of sociological enquiry that give glimpses of how sociology might respond. It ends with a hesitation around the radical anti-anthropomorphism of the stance developed, and argues that this does not entirely eclipse the importance of political hope.

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judith Butler, ecology, informed matter, intra-activity, performativity, Isabelle Stengers, A.N. Whitehead

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Date Deposited:

09 Jun 2013 12:55

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:51

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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