Research Area 3: Cultural Transformation and Performativity Studies
During the first funding period, RA 3 focused on performativity as a concept to describe the ritual, theatrical and interactive dimensions of culture. The concept has proved to be productive also for the understanding of cultural change and will continue to be of central interest to RA 3 during the second funding period. Approaching cultural change from the perspective of performativity studies implies observing the gradual alterations of cultural processes and analysing their adaptations to equally changing cultural contexts. Such an approach highlights the interference of continuities and discontinuities, and the simultaneity of the dissimilar as fundamental features of cultural transformations. The notion of ‘ruptures’ and ‘caesurae’ are regarded as discursive and medial constructions answering to the need of reducing the complexity behind cultural change. This proposed extension of ‘performativity’ as a concept for the study of culture approximates concepts of evolution or emergence and materiality, while at the same time specifying and applying them. During the first funding period, research on performativity practices was not fully integrated in the RA’s approach to cultural transformations, but emerged through the discussion of classical as well as recent approaches to performativity studies. In the second funding period, concrete case studies will be dealt with in order to specify and test the approach with regard to its conceptual and methodological implications. For this reason, RA 3 is planning a conference on “Materialism and Constructivism” (2012), which will analyse cultural transformations from the perspective of the changing role materiality plays in the contemporary virtualisation of communication. Other projects include analysing the globalisation of popular culture with regard to cultural transformations, a workshop investigating the global circulation of the popular and its locally differing performances, and the new challenges of 21st Century Studies.
The rituals, theatricality and interactive dynamics of cultures are the key issues investigated in the research area on culture and performativity. In cultural performances such as festivities, plays, media or technology, cultures can be studied ‘in action’, as they shape, explain and unfold meaning. Since the late 1980s, performativity has become a key concept for the interdisciplinary study of cultures: performativity describes the theatricalised (re-)actualisation of socio-symbolic systems which render cultures visible to themselves and to others. Different academic disciplines cooperate in an attempt to describe the interrelationship of performativity and culture.
Originating in language philosophy (Austin’s speech act theory), the concept of performativity ‘travelled’ through cultural anthropology and history in the 1960s and theatre studies and social sciences in the 1980s and has been a part of gender studies since the 1990s. Cultural anthropology and history have studied rituals as performances providing an arena for cultural self-definition; sociology has analysed the performance of social interactions, stressing their importance for the maintenance and adaptivity of cultural patterns (de Certeau); theatre and literary studies have explored the interactive dynamics of plays and texts. Finally, gender studies (Butler) have examined the every-day role of gender in terms of a re-actualisation of socio-symbolic systems.
During the past two years, the area reflected intensely on a concept and terminology of performativity due to the current state of the theoretical debate. Therefore, the area focused on issues such as violence, the transformation of culture and media and the linkage between politics, resistance and art.
To the extent that this area focuses on the dynamic processes, which generate cultural meaning on the levels of body, narrative and image, it is linked to the research areas ‘Cultures of Knowledge, Research and Education’, ‘Culture and Narration’ and ‘Visual Cultures’.
13.1.2010 - Giessen: Workshop with Thomas Weber
17.-19.02.2010 - Giessen: Medien.Kultur.Wandel
21.6.2010 - Giessen: Deep Impact. Warum forschen wir?
11.-14.11.2010 - Giessen: Widerständiges Denken/ Thinking Resistance