Performative Social Science and Psychology


  • Mary Gergen Penn State University
  • Kenneth J. Gergen Swarthmore College



art forms, multi-media, performance, social sciences, social construction, social justice


This article presents an overview of "Performative Social Science," which is defined as the deployment of different forms of artistic performance in the execution of a scientific project. Such forms may include art, theater, poetry, music, dance, photography, fiction writing, and multi-media applications. Performative research practices are in their developmental stage, with most of the major work appearing in the last two decades. Frequently based on a social constructionist metatheory, supporters reject a realist, or mapping view of representation, and explore varieties of expressive forms for constructing worlds relevant to the social sciences. The performative orientation often relies on a dramaturgical approach that encompasses value-laden, emotionally charged topics and presentations. Social scientists invested in social justice issues and political perspectives have been especially drawn to this approach. Performative social science invites productive collaborations among various disciplinary fields and between the sciences and arts. URN:


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Author Biographies

Mary Gergen, Penn State University

Mary M. GERGEN is Professor Emerita, Penn State Brandywine and a founder of the Taos Institute, a non-profit educational organization. Together with Kip JONES, she has created an editorial on performative social science; see Mary Gergen and Kip Jones (2008). Editorial: A conversation about performative social sciences. In Kip Jones, Mary Gergen, John J. Guiney Yallop, Irene Lopez de Vallejo, Brian Roberts & Peter Wright (Eds.), Performative social science. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2),, as well as several book reviews.

Kenneth J. Gergen, Swarthmore College

Kenneth J. GERGEN is a senior research professor at Swarthmore College and the President of the Taos Institute, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the application of social constructionist ideas to various professional practices. He is author of several books, including "Relational Being," most recently. He and Mary GERGEN are authoring a book on performative social sciences, which focuses on their own work in the field.


How to Cite

Gergen, M., & Gergen, K. J. (2010). Performative Social Science and Psychology. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1).