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Performativity is language which affects change in the world and functions as a form of social action. The concept has multiple applications in diverse fields, such as linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, law, gender studies, performance studies, and economics.
Performativity was first defined by philosopher of language John L. Austin as the capacity of speech and communication to act or to consummate an action. Common examples of performative language are making promises, betting, performing a wedding ceremony, an umpire calling a strike, or a judge pronouncing a verdict. Austin differentiated this from constative language, which he defined as descriptive language that can be "evaluated as true or false".Influenced by Austin, philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler argued that gender is socially constructed through commonplace speech acts and nonverbal communication that are performative, in that they serve to define and maintain identities. This view of performativity reverses the idea that a person's identity is the source of their secondary actions (speech, gestures). Instead, it views actions, behaviors and gestures as both the result of an individual's identity as well as a source that contributes to the formation of one's identity which is continuously being redefined through speech acts and symbolic communication. This view was also influenced by philosophers such as Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser.