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Power in ModernityAgency Relations and the Creative Destruction of the King's Two Bodies$
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Isaac Ariail Reed

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226689319

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226689593.001.0001

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Binding Performances

Binding Performances

(p.74) 4 Binding Performances
Power in Modernity

Isaac Ariail Reed

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the performative dimension of power in depth, putting it in relationship to the material, relational, and discursive dimensions of power. It begins with the concept of illocutionary force, developed by J.L. Austin, and moves to the work of Judith Butler. Performative power involves (1) an accrual of agency, (2) the dependence of this accrual for its efficacy on the dramatic felicity of actions as they are interpreted by a public or audience, and therefore (3) the dependence of sending-and-binding, or exclusion from sending-and-binding, on the interpretation of front stage drama. The chapter examines two cases, so as to put performative power in relationship to to the overall theory of power being proposed: The Salem Witch Trials and the fall of Oscar Wilde. It also considers where and when in chains of power and their representation tends to flourish: at the extreme top and far bottom of power pyramids, in situations of spatial separation from organized power relations, and in inchoate interactional situations. Finally, the chapter considers the importance of founding performances, and does so via an examination of Hannah Arendt's work On Revolution.

Keywords:   revolution, power, Hannah Arendt, ritual, performance and performativity, Salem Witch Trials, Oscar Wilde, principal and agent, founders of the republic, sovereignty

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