25th September 2013

Exploring the Performativity of Marketing: Theories, Practices and Devices


Guest Editors: Dr. Katy Mason, Lancaster University Management School, UK; Dr. Hans Kjellberg, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden; Dr. Johan Hagberg, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

How and why are marketing theories used and ‘performed’ in practice?   Scholars have called for further research that addresses the gap between marketing theory and marketing practice (Brownlie, Hewer & Ferguson, 2007; Hunt, 2002; Lilien, Rangaswamy, van Bruggen & Wierenga, 2002), and explicates how marketing theories influence contemporary consumer societies (Shankar, Whittaker & Fitchett, 2006). Despite these valuable contributions, we still understand little of how marketing theories work in practice.   Recent work drawing on the notion of performativity seems to offer a new and potentially fruitful vantage point for exploring how we understand, use and perform marketing knowledge in practice.

The notion of “performativity” focuses on how activities, practices, doings and sayings, have effects (Austin, 1970). Performativity has been used in different fields of study and in different ways. For example, Judith Butler’s (1990) work, that explores gender not as a fixed category but as being performed has had a significant influence on critical marketing scholars (Maclaran, Miller, Parsons & Surman, 2009; Tadajewski, 2010). Such an approach recognises variations in ‘performative intent’ between different knowledge production and dissemination efforts (Fournier & Grey, 2000; see also Law, 2004).  In contrast, Michel Callon’s work in economic sociology, suggests that “economics in the broad sense of the term, performs, shapes and formats the economy, rather than observing how it functions” (1998, p. 2). Thus, economics in the sense of theories, ideas, people, skills, techniques, and tools is not a passive observer, but rather an active participant in shaping the economy. This notion of performativity has been further developed by MacKenzie and his colleagues in social studies of finance (MacKenzie, 2003; MacKenzie, Muniesa & Siu, 2007), and has also begun to make important inroads in marketing (Araujo, Finch & Kjellberg, 2010; Hagberg & Kjellberg, 2010; Kjellberg & Helgesson, 2006; Mason & Spring, 2011; Zwick & Cayla, 2011).

This SI sets out to provide a forum where different theoretical and methodological approaches to researching the performativity of marketing can be explored and contrasted. We invite papers that explore the causes and consequences of performativity in market settings. Paraphrasing Callon (2007) we ask: What does it mean to say that marketing is performative? The issues addressed could include, but need not be limited to:

  • Empirical studies of performative effects of marketing, e.g. for how markets work, for the capacities of market agents, for exchange objects, etc.;
  • Analyses of the power consequences of such performative effects, e.g. domesticating or emancipating consumers, contributing to produce pockets of monopoly power, etc.;
  • Methodologies that combine theorising and practicing through collaborative, engaged or action research initiatives;
  • The consequences of performativity for theorising about markets and marketing, e.g. how to allow for the possibility that  things  could  have  been  or  may  be(come)  otherwise,  how  to  ensure  analytical  leverage  if  theories  also contribute to produce what they describe;
  • Discussions about the consequences of performativity for the methods employed to study marketing and markets, e.g. the issue of reflexivity;
  • Efforts to strengthen or limit the performative effects of marketing, and the related issues of whether marketing is performative enough or not, and in what way.

See here for more information. Deadline 29 November 2013.