Accepted Paper:

Realizing governance: epistemic and political performativity  


Jan-Peter Voß (Berlin University of Technology)

Paper short abstract:

What’s specific about epistemic and political means of making collectives? I translate the performativity concept, as developed in STS for practices of epistemic representation, to practices of political representation. Governance can be studied as a co-production of epistemic and political order.

Paper long abstract:

The paper discusses "practices of representation" as an analytical entry point for social studies of science and politics, and their intertwining in specific modes of governance. A generic concept of power as "performative representation" is inspired by science and technology studies (STS), actor-network theory (ANT) and (neo-)pragmatist sociology. It builds on a translation of the concept of "performativity", as developed in studies of scientific practices, also for political practices: While science produces representations of objective reality and the conditions that it imposes, politics produces representations of collective subjects and their interests. Both practices perform a larger whole that transcends the individual human being and, if felicitous, can prompt allegiance and mobilise collective action. I argue that studying practices of representation provides a fruitful approach to trace "governance in the making". It takes us to the work that is done to achieve authority, both epistemic and political (and perhaps other forms as well), and to make it work for the shaping of collective orders. The paper is mainly conceptual, but main points are illustrated with reference to the representation of "societal needs and interests" and the "Earth system" in global sustainability governance.

Panel T036
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means