Education: the subjectivising power of the performative

John Scannell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper responds to the extremely low rates of completion (collectively less than ten percent) of MOOC based courses by contending that education is not merely the provisioning of content, but that its more primary function is the performance of 'order words' that subjectivise teacher and student through language's power of incorporeal transformation. Using Deleuze and Guattari's provocative theory of language presented in the 'Postulates of Linguistics' from A Thousand Plateaus, the paper reflects upon their claim that language is more properly concerned with ordering and compliance through 'order words' rather than representing or conveying information, to argue that the subjectivising power of the performative is imperative to the acquisition of knowledge. Teaching as performativity is poorly served when removed from its affective investments, and the performance of information is vital to its retention and re-presentation. As the burgeoning world of MOOCs and digital interfaces instantiate a rapid decline in traditional modes of face-to-face communication, the disciplinary regime of the classroom which once produced the identity of teacher and student through affective encounter and performative language makes way for the asynchronous 'passwords' of the control society. Without recourse to the negotiation of power through language and the feedback of affective encounter, the digital's rigid system of passwords promote the programmatic over the dialogic and risk aversion instead of experimentation. Learning and teaching requires performance and performance requires bodies in space, and this paper will discuss why this will forever be the case.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-323
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


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