Performativity and grassroots politics: On the practice of reshuffling mafia power

Christina Jerne

Recent uses of performativity have been engaged with bridging the gap between the economy and politics. The concept of performation has for instance been used to enable discursive and material assemblages that challenge this dichotomy, with the general aim of transforming the economy. While the overall intent of this article is to contribute to this bridging, its direction of travel is the opposite: to bring the economy into politics. Specifically, it situates the notion of performativity within studies on grassroots politics in a material sense. First, it discusses some of the leading scholarship on grassroots movements, focusing on their take on the economy. It moves on to suggest that some of the problems that are identified can be addressed using performativity theory, the benefits of which are discussed in the second part. Finally, it empirically illustrates the theoretical discussion by analysing the performativity of the discourses, things and people that are jointly fighting the Mafia today. The article places social movement studies in dialogue with scholarship which is preoccupied with the economic-political cleft, in order to encourage thinking of the economy as a space for political possibility and social struggle, rather than seeing it as a place of capitalocentrism, structural exploitation and inescapability.

Suggested citation

Jerne, C. (2016) Performativity and grassroots politics: on the practice of reshuffling mafia power, Journal of Cultural Economy, 9(6):541-554.