Performing the Sub-Prime Crisis: Trauma and the Financial Event



Brassett, James and Chris Clarke. (2012) Performing the Sub-Prime Crisis: Trauma and the Financial Event. International Political Sociology, doi: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2012.00148.x
© 2012 International Studies Association

The article provides a critical analysis of the performative effects of invocations of trauma and traumatic imagery during the sub-prime crisis. We develop a pragmatic approach to performativity that foregrounds the ambiguity between the importance of performative utterances, on the one hand, and overlapping performativities that produce subjects capable of “hearing” such utterances, on the other. We argue that a performative effect of the traumatic narrative of the sub-prime crisis was to constitute it as “an event” with traumatic characteristics. Financial subjects came to anticipate the object of financial salvation through intervention to save the banks; and such a view worked to curtail the range of political possibilities that were thinkable. Lines of pragmatic resistance are suggested, which turn the logic of trauma toward broadly progressive ends. In this way, the political dimension of performativity is brought forward: if finance is performative, then this only invites the question of how we might perform it differently.