Scenes of Struggle:​ ​Rethinking the Politics of Performativity Today

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association 2021
contact email: 

ACLA 2021
Call for Participants
Scenes of Struggle:​ ​Rethinking the Politics of Performativity Today
Organized by Ryan Anthony Hatch (Cal. Poly.-San Luis Obispo) and Joseph Cermatori (Skidmore College)

Do the overlapping global crises that constitute our present require us to rethink performativity and its politics? From the resurgence of far-right "populisms" to the worldwide uprising for Black life, from the emergent hegemony of “algorithmic governmentality” (Rouvroy and Berns, 2013) to the obscene inequalities that the novel coronavirus pandemic has laid bare, how do contemporary political circumstances transform our understanding of the performative? While progressive anti-racist movements have denounced social media activism as “performative allyship,” Anne Applebaum, writing in The Atlantic on behalf of the centrist liberal establishment, has labeled the actions of the U.S. President and his enablers as “performative authoritarianism.” These developments signal a shift in our understanding of performativity. For rather than speech-acts that bring into being what they articulate (c.f. Austin, 1962), these performatives confront us with political actors whose discourse would at least appear to function precisely not to bring into being what it articulates. Have we shifted from Austinian performatives, to what Sarah Ahmed has more recently called “non-performatives” (2004)? If so, why, and what does this shift mean to critical theories and discourses on the Left, in which the juncture of politics and performativity has for the last thirty years played such a decisive role? We seek scholars, artists, and activists to address the meanings, misprisions, and mutations of performativity in our contemporary world. How does anti-racist, anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, and decolonial struggle force us to reorient our field’s classical theorizations of performance? How might we rethink performativity in an age marked by what Alain Badiou has called The Rebirth of History (2012)? And how have corporate social media platforms helped transform or undermine the relations between performance and politics? Seminar participants will present very brief written interventions, so that we can devote most of our time to disc​u​ssion.