Towards a Performative Theory of Resistance: Senior Managers and Revolting Subject(ivitie)s

Nancy Helen Harding, Jackie Ford, Hugh Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (SciVal)


This article develops a performative theory of resistance. It uses Judith Butler’s and Karen Barad’s theories of performativity to explore how resistance (to organizational strategies and policies) and resistants (those who resist such strategies and policies) co-emerge, within and through complex intra-actions of entangled discourses, materialities, affect and space/time. The article uses empirical materials from a case study of the implementation of a talent management strategy. We analyse interviews with the senior managers charged with implementing the strategy, the influence of material, non-sentient actors, and the experiences of the researchers when carrying out the interviews. This leads to a theory that resistance and resistants emerge in moment-to-moment co-constitutive moves that may be invoked when identity or self is put in jeopardy. Resistance, we suggest, is the power (residing with resistants) to say ‘no’ to organizational requirements that would otherwise threaten to render the self abject.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1232
Number of pages24
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number9
Early online date2 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Barad
  • Butler
  • new materialism
  • performativity
  • resistance
  • senior managers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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