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Research Area 3: Cultural Transformation and Performativity Studies

Research Area 3 focuses on the theorisation, interpretation, and application of the concepts of performativity, performances, and cultural transformation. We look at different theoretical perspectives that have shaped the development of the theory of performativity, and that test its limits in contemporary understanding. We also consider the the challenges of performativity, as well as its relation to cultural discourses and practices more broadly. A major focus of the group is the relation betweentheories of performativity and various forms of art, such as performance, theatre, film, photography, music, and literature, as well as to lived experiences and public spaces.

Performativity, in its many uses, holds the potential to impact social developments and to propel cultural transformation. 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 not only highlights the interference of continuities and discontinuities, and the simultaneity of the dissimilar as fundamental features of cultural transformations but also emphasizes the agency of the subject or groups of subjects to bring about real change.

In 2018, RA 3 focused on the interplay between agency, theatricality and rituality regarded from both social and artistic angles. We organised a Keynote Lecture and a Master Class with Frans-Willem Korsten from the University of Leiden and discussed modes of the theatrical and the dramatic in political and legal contexts. Furthermore, two events with philosopher Harry Lehmann in the last winter semester shed light on the recent emergence and development of contact zones and breaking points between academic research, cultural institutions and various forms of conceptual art and music. RA3 and its temporary subgroup “Evil” is also involved in the conference “Villains! Constructing Narratives of Evil”, which took place in February 2019.


Recent and past activities:

Former Research Focus and Past Activities

Participating Scholars

  • Hannes Kaufmann
  • Gerlov van Engelhoven
  • Ruben Pfizenmaier
  • Elisabeth Engler-Starck
  • Philipp Brockkötter
  • Jonas Wolf (Speaker)
  • Theresa Krampe (Co-Speaker)
  • Eva Zimmermann
  • Simon Rothers
  • Tanja Marcotte