Performing Culture: Stories of Expertise and the Everyday


John Tulloch

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  • Theory, Culture & Society

    Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It also publishes theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.

    EDITOR: Mike Featherstone, Nottingham Trent University


    Roy Boyne, University of Durham

    Mike Hepworth, University of Aberdeen

    Scott Lash, Goldsmiths College. University of London

    Roland Robertson, University of Pittsburgh

    Bryan S. Turner, University of Cambridge


    The Theory, Culture & Society book series, the journals Theory Culture & Society and Body & Society, and related conference, seminar and postgraduate programmes operate from the TCS Centre at Nottingham Trent University. For further details of the TCS Centre's activities please contact:

    Centre Administrator

    The TCS Centre, Room 175

    Faculty of Humanities

    Nottingham Trent University

    Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK


    web: //

    Recent volumes include:

    Deleuze and Guattari

    An Introduction to the Politics of Desire

    Philip Goodchild

    Undoing Aesthetics

    Wolfgang Welsch

    The Consumer Society

    Myths and Structures

    Jean Baudrillard

    Culture as Praxis

    Zygmunt Bauman

    Spaces of Culture

    City, Nation, World

    Mike Featherstone and Scott Lash

    Love and Eroticism

    edited by Mike Featherstone

    Sociology of Giving

    Helmuth Berking


    View Copyright Page


    [T]he metaphor of performativity has emerged to focus attention on the subject's (compulsory) performance of gender and the possibilities for performing gender differently. … The source of textual meaning has been relocated in negotiations between readers, writers and texts. That has necessitated a theorisation of the subjects who read and write, first a deconstruction of the humanist knowing subject … then a gendering and sexing of the subject, and finally a recognition of the importance of her colour. … It is now both a feminist and a poststructuralist/postmodemist catchcry, in some places, that one does not analyse texts, one rewrites them, one does not have an objective metalanguage, one does not use a theory, one performs one's critique. … [But] I want to suggest that there are also seductions involved in allowing oneself to be positioned totally by the discourses and genres of rewriting and refusal of metalanguages, the seductions of an anti-science metaphysics. (Threadgold, 1997: 2, 1)

    [Raymond] Williams' conviction [is] that people in society are their own cultural agents, transforming those situations by acting on and acting in them, in short, by performing them. … The significance and even the audience's perception of cultural practice as culture arises out of the place and occasion, rather than the form, of its performance. This emphasis on performance and participation in diverse cultural practices rather than ‘extension’ of cultural property allows us to review drama as cultural practice. No small-scale form (such as drama) belongs inevitably to a dominant minority, anymore than mass-mediated culture is ‘popular’ by virtue of large-scale consumption. By stressing the historical and social specificity … of cultural practice … it challenges the very commonplace that has excluded drama: the essential dichotomy between a ‘high’ culture of special works and a ‘low’ culture of leisure consumption [which t]o a remarkable degree … still underpins canonical literary criticism and contemporary cultural studies, even though they may take opposite sides. (Kruger, 1993: 56–7)

    This contemporary cultural condition – postcolonial, postindustrial, postmodern, postcommunist – forms the historical backdrop for the urgency of rethinking the significance of ethnography, away from its status as realist knowledge in the direction of its quality as a form of storytelling, as narrative. This does not mean that descriptions cease to be more or less true; criteria such as accurate data gathering and careful inference making remain applicable. … It does mean that our deeply partial position as storytellers … should be … seriously confronted. … The point is not to see this as a regrettable shortcoming to be eradicated as much as possible, but as an inevitable state of affairs which circumscribes the … responsibility of the researcher/writer as a producer of descriptions which, as soon as they enter the uneven, power-laden field of social discourse, play their political roles as particular ways of seeing and organising an ever-elusive reality. (Ang, 1996: 75–6)

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