Performative Turn and Epistemological Reconfiguration of Social Knowledge

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:15 PM
Room: 304
Distributed Paper
Victoria DUDINA , Sociology, Saint-Petersburg State University, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
This report discusses the process of epistemological reconfiguration of social knowledge from representation to performativity, which can be observed in the context of performative turn in social sciences and outlines some features of performative epistemology.

For the last decades, sociological knowledge has changed but epistemological concepts are still based on representational idiom. Representational epistemology is the epistemology of observation. Social knowledge is estimated by the criteria of observation and other dimensions of social cognition are overlooked.

Performative turn is redefining basic elements of research. In the context of performative epistemology the epistemic subject (knower) should be considered not as a person or a scientific community, but as a dispersed knower enfolded in complex machineries of different devices, networks and social conventions. Scientific facts and observations are effects of agency. Fact is not something that should be discovered, rather it should be produced or performed. Performative social theory takes part in enacting reality which it describes and it could not be evaluated in accordance with the representational criteria. The criteria of accurate representation should be replaced by the criteria of reconfiguration of reality. New scientific objectivity implies that the main criterion for evaluation of sociological knowledge is not the accuracy of representation, but the degree of reconfiguration of social reality.

Shift from representation to performativity provides a new prospective for social science. If social sciences take part in enacting reality, struggle between different scientific models and theories implies the struggle between realities, enacted by these models and theories. If sociologists want to make sociology more credible they should think not only about how to represent reality, but how to promote sociological version of reality.