Performativity

Judith Butler

“Performativity” Butler says “is construed of that power of discourse to produced effects through re-iteration, to produce what it declares.” Performativity however, is only possible within the constraints of  “iterability.” We are spoken more than we speak, done more than we do; therefore we are “constrained by what remains radically unthinkable” and, in the area of sexuality “by the radical unthinkability of desiring otherwise”. Inhabiting a sexed position then always engages citational practices, “citing the law under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death compelling and controlling the shape of production but without fully pre-determining it.” “Agency” then, according to Butler’s reconfiguration, is always “on drugs”. It is always under the influence of language and can only take place within our reiteration of the reiterable.

“This agency however, is “not bound by the long arm of the Law. Neither language nor the Law, in other words is stable; there are gaps, rup-tures, un-hin-ging, escape routes. Because Laws and conventions only get their authority through and “echo chain of their own re-invocation (Bodies that Matter 107), the Law itself, Butler notes, perpetually re-institutes the possibility of its own failure (108). Within the space of the “slippage between the discursive command and it’s appropriation effect,” there exists the potential, for distortion, for hyperbole, for flight. In the space of that slippage she says “a radical resignification of the symbolic domain” might be achieved through “deviations” in the citational chain (21-22).  Butler introduces Nietsczhe’s concept of the “Eternal Return” to linguisitic structure, the iterable, and what results is not the return of the “same”, it is not the eternal rerun; the reiteration of the reiterable becomes rather the return of difference/difference.”

Text reproduced from Debra Diane Davis, Breaking up (At) totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter, Discursive laughter, 2000:pp.81/82

Image reproduced from http://www.straight.com/article-692066/vancouver/prof-foresees-rising-brutality