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Writing acts and writing performativity

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Abstract

This chapter is about public writings which pertain to collective action, common objects of a protest graphic culture: leaflets. From a pragmatic viewpoint, I try to analyze the way these written objects operate.In order to do this, I aim to explore the notion of “writing act” developed by Béatrice Fraenkel. Through a contemporary case study, mainly based on an ethnographic fieldwork on a French feminist protest march in 2011 and on casual sources about protest practices, I try to scrutinize the writing act related to leaflets and to understand the specificities of written performativity. More precisely, I aim to point out how taking into account the material aspect of these situated writings, the handling gestures and bodily commitment allows to show how the stages of production and dissemination of the leaflets are an integral part of a writing act related to these writings, and how their performativity is intimately related to their materiality.Therefore, first I show how the stage of material production of the leaflets is a collective and sustained activity, and a collective enunciation. Then, situated observations and photographic enquiry point out how the actors make use of real skills when handing out leaflets. Subsequently, I try to understand to what extent this gesture of handing out leaflets is part of the performative written enunciation and I aim to show how getting the addressee(s) to take the leaflets is a fundamental stage in the performativity of these distributed writings. Finally, by assigning the leaflets’ utterances to the precise situations in which they are handed out, I try to point out how the writing acts of leafleting have different meanings, values and stakes in diverse situated actions.

References

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