Towards a Butlerian methodology: undoing organizational performativity through anti-narrative research

Kathleen Riach, Nick Rumens, Melissa Tyler

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    This article explores the methodological possibilities that Butler’s theory of performativity opens up, attempting to ‘translate’ her theoretical ideas into research practice. Specifically, it considers how research on organizational subjectivity premised upon a performative ontology might be undertaken. It asks: What form might a Butler-inspired methodology take? What methodological opportunities might it afford for developing self-reflexive research? What political and ethical problems might it pose for organizational researchers, particularly in relation to the challenges associated with power asymmetries, and the risks attached to ‘fixing’ subjects within the research process? The article outlines and evaluates a method described as anti-narrative interviewing, arguing that it constitutes a potentially valuable methodological resource for researchers interested in understanding how and why idealized organizational subjectivities are formed and sustained. It further advances the in-roads that Butler’s writing has made into organization studies, thinking through the methodological and ethical implications of her work for understanding the performative constitution of organizational subjectivities. The aim of the article is to advocate a research practice premised upon a reflexive undoing of organizational subjectivities and the normative conditions upon which they depend. It concludes by emphasizing the potential benefits and wider implications of a methodologically reflexive undoing of organizational performativity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2069-2089
    Number of pages21
    JournalHuman Relations
    Issue number11
    Early online date20 May 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


    • Judith Butler
    • performativity
    • qualitative methods
    • reflexivity
    • organizational sexuality
    • anti-narrative research
    • methodology
    • organizational research methods
    • self-reflexivity


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