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Lecture Six Performativity.docx

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Alejandro Paz

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Lecture Six: January 26th, 2012
How to Do things with Words
John Austin, 1911-1960
- How do we create part of our social worlds when we talk, how do we perform
social identities? Etc…
- His theory of performativity was ground-breaking idea that took the study of
language away from scientific orientation what we have to do is to see if the
act of communication exists and how language reflects it.
- Constatives (description of the world) vs. Performatives (makes some state of
affairs come into being)
- A lot of his theorization of performativity came from a construction of form
called the explicit primary performative
o “I do (sc. Take this woman to be my lawful wedded wife)”
o “I name this ship the Queen Elizabeth…”
o These explicit primary performatives
Construction: I + verb (present) + [you] this is a subcategory of
performatives, from which Austin theorized performativity
Speech Acts:
- Term from philosopher from John Searle, a student of Austin
- Maintained the idea of individual speaker, and that intention and intentional
state still pre-exists
o Speakers uses form (ex. I hereby name you…) appropriate to produce
- Social identities can change (ex. Become married)
- In explicit primary performative construction, verb names the act
- Form functions to indicate pre-existing intention
Even in English a series of questions were brought up, especially about using this
construction as an essential to formation of language.
- “I insult you”: we have social actions that have a verb that name the action but it
doesn’t necessarily insult the person
- “I contract with you”: you can’t just do this by yourself, you need the other
person to also do it, if you want to make it ritually binding it needs to be put on
paper, signed, witnessed (ritual actions)
- “I make fun of you”
- “I make you laugh”
- “I address you” - doesn’t need to be explicit, we show this in all kinds of ways
The impact of this theory of performativity:
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