Call for Papers – Special Issue of M@n@gement
PUTTING CRITICAL PERFORMATIVITY TO WORK
Call for Papers – Special Issue of M@n@gement
Special Issue Guest editors
Isabelle Huault (Université Paris-Dauphine PSL)
Dan Kärreman (Copenhagen Business School)
Véronique Perret (Université Paris-Dauphine PSL)
André Spicer (Cass Business School, City University London)
Deadline: 30th September 2015
The notion of “performativity” (and the idea of the “performative”) has recently gained
traction in the organizational studies field (Cabantous & Gond, 2011; Callon, 2007; Huault &
Rainelli, 2009) to the extent that some authors have even talked about a “performative turn”
(Muniesa, 2014). Broadly speaking, the notion of performativity points to the idea that
discourses (e.g. speech acts, theories) are not merely describing reality but are contributing to
enact the reality they describe. It is indeed used by scholars from different research traditions,
ranging from Actor-Network theory (Callon, 2007), critical management studies (Spicer,
Alvesson, & Kärreman, 2009), gender studies (Butler, 1997), etc.
This special issue locates within this broad literature on performativity, and encourages
organization scholars to “put critical performativity to work” by revisiting this notion, and
An emerging strand of organization theory has sought to bring the ideas of “critics” and
“performativity” together, around the concept of critical performativity. For example, Spicer
and colleagues (2009) outlined the possibilities and pitfalls of critical performativity. They
suggest critical performativity involves “active and subversive interventions into management
discourse and practice” (Spicer, Alvesson & Kärreman, 2009: 538). They propose some
tactics through which this might be achieved such as affirmation, care, pragmatism,
engagement with potentialities, and a normative orientation. For them, critical performativity
offers a way of critically working with discourses of management towards progressive social
change. Doing this, they claim, offers a way out of the pervasive cynicism and studied
impracticality, which characterises so much of critical thought. It also offers a way of yoking
the booming research agenda around performativity to a more critical and political agenda.
The concept of critical performativity has sparked a small, but rapidly growing literature.
Dynamics of critical performativity opens numerous avenues of research, which echo a range
of issues in critical management studies such as leadership (Crevani et al, 2010; Alvesson &
Spicer, 2012), diversity (Zanoni et al, 2010), human resource management (Jannsens &
Steyeart, 2009), business ethics (Prasad & Mills, 2010), organizational change (Morgan &
Spicer, 2009), projects (Daniel et al, 2013), management education (Huault & Perret, 2011) or
academic conferences (Bell & King, 2010).
Despite the growing number of studies which try to put “critical performativity” to work, a
number of serious questions and limitations can be raised. Drawing on the rich tradition of
thinking about performativity (Austin, 1959; Butler, 1997; MacKenzie, 2006), some studies
have shed light on the mechanisms whereby theories and models affect practices through
embedding in tools and devices (Cabantous & Gond, 2011; Callon, 2007; Guerard, Langley &
Seidl, 2013). However, it is not clear how the “critical performativity approach” interacts with
such perspectives, builds on them or can contribute to them (and vice-versa). For example,
from a theoretical or epistemological viewpoint, is critical performativity compatible with an
approach such as actor-network-theory (Alcadapani & Hassard, 2010)? How critical
perspective can enrich Callon’s “performativity thesis” (Roscoe & Chillas, 2013)? Besides,
some have pointed out the extreme difficulties involved in attempting to put critical
performativity into practice in the day-to-day running of an enterprise (King & Learmonth,
2014). Others have pointed out that traditional cannons of critical thinking will severely
impede this enterprise (Hartmann, 2013). From an empirical viewpoint, what are the “engines”
required to foster the ideals of critical management studies (Leca, Gond & Barin-Cruz, 2014)?
Given these road-blocks, a recent contribution has suggested that a more realistic approach
would be a kind of toned down performativity aimed at progressive rather than radical social
change (Wickert & Schaefer, 2014). These questions suggest that critical performativity
might be an idea that is still very much in the prototyping stage.
In this special issue, we want to put the idea of critical performativity to work. We invite
theoretical and empirical contributions, which develop, apply and critique the concept of
critical performativity. We are particularly interested in contributions, which relate these ideas
to issues of management and organizations – broadly conceived.
Contributions to this special issue might cover some of the following indicative, but not
• Applying critical performativity. How can the idea of critical performativity be applied
to a range of key concepts in the study of organization and management such as identity,
institutions, space, strategy, business models, management tools, the study of markets
and finance, technology, social movements . . .
• Strategies for critical performativity. What potential strategies, tactics and practices
could scholars and practitioners interested pursuing critical performativity adopt? What
might we learn from other areas of practices such as the visual and performing arts
about how to practice critical performativity? How successful or useful are these
• Education for critical performativity. Should critical performativity be built into
management education? Can critical management education be performative? In what
ways is this possible?
• Studying critical performativity. What methodological strategies might be used to
actually study instances of critical performativity? What are the potential insights and
blind spots of these methodological tactics? In what ways are some methods like critical
• Questioning critical performativity. What are some of the shortcomings with the
concept of critical performativity? To what extent can research on “critical
performativity” build on, and contribute to the broader stream of performative studies?
What are potential alternatives to the concept of critical performativity, which might
overcome these problems and open up a different set of possibilities?
Process and Deadline
Deadline: Papers must be received by September 30th 2015
Papers for the special issue should be prepared according to M@n@gement’s guidelines for
authors (http://www.management-aims.com/submission_en.html) and must be submitted to
the online submission system of M@n@gement, before September 30th, 2015:
When submitting your full paper, please include a cover letter that explicitly states that you
would like your paper to be considered for this special issue.