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Research Area 3: Cultural Transformation and Performativity Studies

Oliver Gargan, „O'Connell Monument top closeup 1” ( Edited by BR, CC BY-SA 4.0 (

Research Area 3 focuses on the theorization, interpretation, and application of the concepts of performativity 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 challenges and problems imposed by some formulations of the concept, often in relation to cultural discourses and practices more broadly. 

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 analyzing their adaptations to equally changing cultural contexts. Such an approach highlights not only the interference of continuities and discontinuities, and the simultaneity of the dissimilar as fundamental features of cultural transformations, but emphasizes also the agency of subjects, objects and other entities to bring about socio-cultural change.

Currently, the group discusses recent proposals to revise discourse-based concepts of performativity. We are particularly interested in new materialist, posthuman and queer perspectives that shift the center of attention from language to matter and acknowledge the fundamental role of the ‘more-than-human’ in meaning-generating as well as change-provoking processes.

Approaching performativity from a variety of disciplines, we investigate different forms of art (i.e. performance, theatre, film, photography, music, visual art and literature), cultural and historical phenomena and lived experiences in contemporary society.

Participating Scholars

  • Fabricio Belsoff
  • Juan Camillo Brigard Torres
  • Sarah Kristin Happersberger
  • Maaike Hommes
  • Paul Kaletsch
  • Benjamin Roers

If you are interested in the work of this Research Area, if you would like to join, have ideas for an event, a cooperation, or any questions, please contact