Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Injustice
Article first published online: 16 SEP 2012
© by Hypatia, Inc.
Volume 29, Issue 2, pages 440–457, Spring 2014
How to Cite
Kukla, R. (2014), Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Injustice. Hypatia, 29: 440–457. doi: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2012.01316.x
- Issue published online: 9 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 16 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 10 MAY 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 29 APR 2012
- Manuscript Received: 28 NOV 2011
I explore how gender can shape the pragmatics of speech. In some circumstances, when a woman deploys standard discursive conventions in order to produce a speech act with a specific performative force, her utterance can turn out, in virtue of its uptake, to have a quite different force—a less empowering force—than it would have if performed by a man. When members of a disadvantaged group face a systematic inability to produce a specific kind of speech act that they are entitled to perform—and in particular when their attempts result in their actually producing a different kind of speech act that further compromises their social position and agency—then they are victims of what I call discursive injustice. I examine three examples of discursive injustice. I contrast my account with Langton and Hornsby's account of illocutionary silencing. I argue that lack of complete control over the performative force of our speech acts is universal, and not a special marker of social disadvantage. However, women and other relatively disempowered speakers are sometimes subject to a distinctive distortion of the path from speaking to uptake, which undercuts their social agency in ways that track and enhance existing social disadvantages.