Organizing the Theatre, Organizing the Court: Elias’s Figurational Analysis As Prototypical Assemblage Theory

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Robert VAN KRIEKEN, Department of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Sydney, University of Sydney, Australia, University College Dublin, Ireland
In this paper I discuss the ways in which Elias’s The Court Society anticipated more recent conceptual developments in social theory, in particular Deleuze’s concept of ‘assemblage’ and Latour’s ‘actor-network theory’. My starting point is the recent book by the theatre historian David Worrall on British Georgian Theatre, Celebrity, Performance, Reception. I outline the ways in which Worrall’s analysis, drawing on Deleuze and Latour, parallels Elias’s in The Court Society, with the concept of ‘figuration’ doing much of the same work as the concept ‘assemblage’, and his account of the French court displaying many of the features of actor-network theory. The paper concludes by identifying the ways in which the performativity of court society analysed by Elias parallels theatrical performance and also the performance of celebrity, pointing to the historical continuities between the court aristocracy and the emergence of a ‘celebrity class’.