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Management in/as comic relief : queer theory and gender performativity in The Office
journal contributionposted on 2009-01-28, 17:03 authored by Melissa Tyler, Laurie Cohen
Our discussion here focuses on gender performativity — the evocation of gender through stylized modes of interaction and the recitation of particular cultural norms — in the BBC comedy series The Office. We suggest that The Office can be read as a cultural text that brings sedimented ways of thinking about and enacting gender into relief, a technique that effectively ‘queers’ management and organization as gendered phenomena. In doing so, we argue that not only does The Office parody the ways in which management is configured according to the terms of what Judith Butler has described as the ‘heterosexual matrix’, but that it also represents a parodic critique of the gendered ways in which this configuration is enacted in everyday organizational encounters. We also suggest that, in addition to its capacity to be read as a parody of gender performativity, The Office reflects queer theory’s concern, particularly as the latter has been articulated in Butler’s writing, to reveal something of the pathos inherent in the desire for recognition that underpins the hegemonic performance of gender. In this respect, our reading of The Office emphasizes that, as a popular cultural text, it throws into (comic) relief the extent to which the desire for recognition underpins the organizational performance and management of gender in accordance with the terms of the heterosexual matrix.
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