SWG 06: Communication, Performativity, and Organization


Nicolas Bencherki, TÉLUQ Montréal, Canada
Laure Cabantous, ESCP Business School, Paris, France
Mie Plotnikof, Aarhus University, Denmark
Alex Wright, Audencia, France

The SWG 06 on “Communication, Performativity and Organization” (CPO) will explore how organizing and organizations are continuously produced and performed through communication and interaction. From this performative perspective, any organization and organizing process is always a matter of the sayings, doings, understandings and interactions performed in everyday life. This stance on organizations can bring novel insights into many central research topics, as evidenced by the growing body of work in organization studies that adopts such a performative perspective on organizations (Bourgoin et al., 2020; Cabantous et al., 2018; Gond et al., 2016) or a communicative constitution of organization (CCO) perspective (Cooren, 2010; Cooren et al., 2011; Schoeneborn et al., 2019).

Building on both the performative and the CCO perspectives, SWG 06 will invite its participants to pose new questions and develop new insights arising from the assumption that organizational phenomena are never fixed, but are brought into existence by relations of human/non-human actors and their material-discursive practices.

In particular, the SWG will be an opportunity to develop knowledge based on a conjoined communicative and performative stance on four important topics for organization scholars, each time approach through the lens of communicative performance:

  1. Creativity, innovation and change as communicative processes that reconfigure the organization (in 2022);

  2. Future-making, forecasting and planning’s performative effect on work and organization (in 2023);

  3. Relationality and affectivity’s role in bringing about new forms of (post)humanism (in 2024);

  4. The communicative performance of alternative organizing, organization and organizationality (in 2025).

These four themes will guide the CPO SWG’s yearly activities.
Our aim is that this SWG will nurture a new, strong cross-disciplinary CPO community, enabling its participants to enhance and synthesize diverse theoretical and analytical approaches. Such a move will advance knowledge of the performative powers of communicative relations and practices, and of the way organizational phenomena are continuously constituted through the sayings and doings of organizational actors.
To develop and expand the theoretical, methodological and empirical avenues of CPO, the SWG will also welcome thought-provoking contributions by scholars from within neighboring research traditions, including, amongst others:

  • Organizational process studies (all four Colloquia)

  • Science and technology studies (the 2022, 2023, and 2024 Colloquia)

  • Critical management studies (the 2024 and 2025 Colloquia)

  • Feminist and critical diversity studies (the 2023, 2024, and 2025 Colloquia)

As a meeting point between various research traditions (e.g., performativity, CCO, critical studies, process studies), the CPO SWG will be of particular interest to a number of participants who attended previous EGOS Colloquia, including:

  • SWG on “Organization as Communication” (2015–2020), which has created a new space for dialogue between organizational communication and organization studies.

  • Performativity researchers, who have met regularly at EGOS Colloquia.

SWG 06 will also be of relevance to organizational discourse researchers and will attract scholars who do not normally attend EGOS, but whose work resonates with the aim of exploring the constitutive features of communication and performativity in organizations.

The concept of performativity was originally crafted as a means of describing how communication performs reality, for instance in speech act theory (Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969) or in the writings of Wittgenstein (Fayard, 2017; Shotter & Tsoukas, 2011). Communication, in this sense, is performative and consequential: it creates and accomplishes organizing. This line of inquiry has been developed, in particular, by scholars working on the elision of communication and organization studies scholarship. This research focuses on how communication constitutes organization (e.g., Boivin et al., 2017; Schoeneborn et al., 2019; Taylor & Van Every, 2000).

The notion of performativity – broadly defined as the power of discursive and material practices to shape and change the world – has also gained increasing traction in organization studies (Gond et al., 2016) and has resulted in numerous conceptual developments (e.g., Beunza & Ferraro, 2018; Cabantous & Gond, 2011; Cabantous et al., 2016; Garud & Gehman, 2019; Harding et al., 2017; Hultin & Mähring, 2017; Fleming & Banerjee, 2016; Marti & Gond, 2018; Muniesa, 2018; Nyberg & Wright, 2016; Roscoe & Chillas, 2014; Simpson et al., 2017; Vásquez et al., 2018; Wickert & Schaefer, 2015). Drawing on the work of scholars such as Michel Callon, Bruno Latour, Donald MacKenzie, Judith Butler and Karen Barad (Barad, 2003; Butler, 1993, 1997; Callon, 2007, 2010; Latour, 2005; MacKenzie & Millo, 2003; MacKenzie et al., 2007), researchers adopting a performative lens consider that organization exists through the way in which people and things interact and communicate (Cooren, 2018).
The CPO community shares with both the CCO and performative research traditions a post-humanistic outlook on organization that seeks to de-center analytical attention from human beings and to re-focus it towards inter-relating actions and practices themselves (human and non-human; see Cooren & Seidl, 2019). By connecting both streams of research, the CPO community aims at enhancing and strengthening organization theory based on a relational ontology – to explore the ongoing communicative performativity of organizational phenomena and issues.


  • Barad, K. (2003): “Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter.” Signs, 28 (3), 801–831.
  • Beunza, D., & Ferraro, F. (2018): “Performative work: Bridging performativity and institutional theory in the responsible investment field.” Organization Studies, 40 (4), 515–543.
  • Boivin, G., Brummans, B.H.J.M., & Barker, J.R. (2017): “The institutionalization of CCO scholarship: Trends from 2000 to 2015.” Management Communication Quarterly, 31 (3), 331–355.
  • Bourgoin, A., Bencherki, N., & Faraj, S. (2020): “’And who are you?’ A performative perspective on authority in organizations.” Academy of Management Journal, 63 (4), 1134–1165.
  • Butler, J. (1993): Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge.
  • Butler, J. (1997): Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge.
  • Cabantous, L., Gond, J.-P., Harding, N., & Learmonth, M. (2016): “Critical essay: Reconsidering critical performativity.” Human Relations, 69, 197–213.
  • Cabantous, L., & Gond, J.-P. (2011): “Rational decision making as performative praxis: Explaining rationality’s éternel retour.” Organization Science, 22 (3), 573–586.
  • Cabantous, L., Gond, J.-P., & Wright, A. (2018): “The performativity of strategy: Taking stock and moving ahead.” Long Range Planning, 51(3), 407–416.
  • Callon, M. (2007): “What does it mean to say that economics is performative?” In: D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa & L. Siu (eds.): Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 311–357.
  • Callon, M. (2010): “Performativity, misfires and politics.” Journal of Cultural Economy, 3, 163–169.
  • Cooren, F. (2010): Action and Agency in Dialogue: Passion, Ventriloquism and Incarnation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Cooren, F. (2018): “Materializing communication: Making the case for a relational ontology.” Journal of Communication, 68 (2), 278–288.
  • Cooren, F., & Seidl, D. (2019): “Niklas Luhmann’s radical communication approach and its implications for research on organizational communication.” Academy of Management Review, 45 (2), 479–497.
  • Cooren, F., Kuhn, T., Cornelissen, J.P., & Clark, T. (2011): “Communication, organizing and organization: An overview and introduction to the Special Issue.” Organization Studies, 32 (9), 1149–1170.
  • Fayard, A.-L. (2017): “Language games: A conceptual lens for studying the co-production of materiality, practice, and discourse.” Communication Research and Practice, 3 (3), 1–17.
  • Fleming, P., & Banerjee, S.B. (2016): “When performativity fails: Implications for critical management studies.” Human Relations, 69, 257–276.
  • Garud, R., Gehman, J., & Tharchen, T. (2018): “Performativity as ongoing journeys: Implications for strategy, entrepreneurship, and innovation.” Long Range Planning, 51 (3), 500–509.
  • Gond, J.-P., Cabantous, L., Harding, N., & Learmonth, M. (2016): “What do we mean by performativity in organizational and management theory? The uses and abuses of performativity.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 18 (4), 440–463.
  • Harding, N.H., Ford, Jackie, & Lee, H. (2017): “Towards a performative theory of resistance: Senior managers and revolting subject(ivitie)s.” Organization Studies, 38, 1209–1232.
  • Hultin, L., & Mähring, M. (2017): “How practice makes sense in healthcare operations: Studying sensemaking as performative, material-discursive practice.” Human Relations, 70, 566–593.
  • Latour, B. (2005): Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • MacKenzie, D., & Millo, Y. (2003): “Constructing a market, performing a theory: The historical sociology of a financial derivatives exchange.” American Journal of Sociology, 109, 107–145.
  • MacKenzie, D., Muniesa, F., & Siu, L. (2007): Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Marti, E., & Gond, J.-P. (2018): “When do theories become self-fulfilling? Exploring the boundary conditions of performativity.” Academy of Management Review, 43 (3), 487–508.
  • Muniesa, F. (2018): “Grappling with the performative condition.” Long Range Planning, 51(3), 495–499.
  • Nyberg, D., & Wright, C. (2016): “Performative and political: Corporate constructions of climate change risk.” Organization, 23 (5), 617–638.
  • Roscoe, P., & Chillas, S. (2014): “The state of affairs: Critical performativity and the online dating industry.” Organization, 21 (6), 797–820.
  • Schoeneborn, D., Kuhn, T., & Kärreman, D. (2019): “The communicative constitution of organization, organizing, and organizationality.” Organization Studies, 40 (4), 475–496.
  • Searle, J.R. (1969): Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Shotter, J., & Tsoukas, H. (2011): “Theory as therapy: Wittgensteinian reminders for reflective theorizing in organization and management theory.” In: H. Tsoukas & R. Chia (eds.): Philosophy and Organization Theory. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 311–342; https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X(2011)0000032013.
  • Simpson, B., Buchan, L., & Sillince, J. (2017): “The performativity of leadership talk.” Leadership, 14, 644–661.
  • Taylor, J.R., & Van Every, E.J. (2000): The Emergent Organization: Communication as its Site and Surface. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Vásquez, C., Bencherki, N., Cooren, F., & Sergi, V. (2018): “From ‘matters of concern’ to ‘matters of authority’. Reflecting on the performativity of strategy in writing a strategic plan.” Long Range Planning, 51 (3), 417–435.
  • Wickert, C., & Schaefer, S.M. (2015): “Towards a progressive understanding of performativity in critical management studies.” Human Relations, 68, 107–130.

About the Coordinators

Nicolas Bencherki is an Associate Professor of Organizational Communication at Université TÉLUQ in Montréal, Canada, and an Affiliate Professor at Université du Québec à Montréal. His research investigates the role of communication and materiality in the way community-based organizations perform authority, strategy, membership and other crucial aspects of organizing. Nicolas’ work has appeared, among others, in ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Communication Theory’, and ‘Management Communication Quarterly’.
Laure Cabantous is a Professor at ESCP Business School, Paris, France, and an Affiliated Professor at HEC Montréal, Canada. She studies decision-making with a practice/performative perspective. Laure is also interested in the role of embodied/distributed cognition in organizations. Her research has been published such journals as the ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Journal of Managemen’t, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Science’, and ‘Organization Studies’.
Mie Plotnikof is an Associate Professor of Public Governance and Organization, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark. Her research questions the performativity and micro-politics of discourse, subjectivity, difference, temporality, dis/order and power/resistance in everyday work – often in contexts of education and social sectors. Mie has published in outlets such as ‘Gender, Work and Organization’, ‘ephemera’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management’, and in international edited volumes as well as in Danish outlets.
Alex Wright is Professor of Strategy and Organization at Audencia Business School, Nantes, France. His research centers on the communicative constitution of organization, routines, critical literature reviews, judgment and qualitative approaches to strategy work.