Wednesday, May 16, 2012


‘PERFORMING THE INTERNATIONAL: THE INTRINSIC PERFORMATIVITY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS’ Attempts to go beyond the theory/practice dichotomy have become something of a banality in the discipline of IR in recent years. Following reflexivist scholars’ insights, the divide between discourses and facts, theory and reality or nature and culture has been largely shown as artificial and harmful to our understanding of the social world. One approach – performativity – has been particularly helpful in revealing the irrelevance of these dichotomies: indeed, performativity shows not only that the ‘material’ reality can only be understood through discourses (re-presentations), but also that these very discourses serve as exclusionary and arbitrary processes that re-create a supposedly foundational ‘reality’. Instead of being ‘foundationalist’ or ‘anti-foundationalist’, performative theory defends an ‘alter-foundationalism’ on which to build our analyses of the world. It also initiates a new approach to theory as ‘productive’ discourses and not only as ‘constative’ observations. In IR, however, performativity has been largely ignored by post-positivist scholars. Despite some precursor works – by Campbell (1992) and Weber (1998) – performativity is still not widely used. This relative disdain for performativity by IR scholars is detrimental given the contribution that this theory can bring to our understanding of the ‘reality’ of such important actors as states and international organisations, but also to concepts such as security or sovereignty. With its emphasis on the discursive power of actors, performativity can also provide an original contribution to the explanation of how norms ‘materialise’ in world politics. Therefore, this panel would like to counterbalance the neglect of the notion of performativity in IR academic production. As such, it invites papers that discuss the advantages and/or limitations of performativity at the theoretical level (for instance by comparing it to other theoretical approaches in IR or in social sciences) or that use performativity for the analysis of international phenomena. If you would like to participate in this panel, please send (i) your paper title, (ii) an abstract of approximately 200 words and (iii) your institutional affiliation to Xavier Mathieu ( by Tuesday 29 May, 2012.