Performance and performativity: Undoing fictions of women business owners

ME Phillips, D Knowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the representation of women small business owners in three contemporary novels; Chocolat, The Shipping News and Back When We Were Grownups. The primary contribution is to demonstrate how fiction can both challenge and collude in dominant constructions of entrepreneurship, which is more generally gendered as male and masculine. Judith Butler's thinking on performativity with regard to gender and sexual desire is applied to women's identities and extended to include their behaviour as entrepreneurs. The article demonstrates that these novels both ‘do’ and ‘undo’ gender and business ownership. They portray women who are successful in business while displaying culturally accepted norms of femininity but who are set apart from other female characters. However, their partial and conflictual identification with norms of gender and entrepreneurship could lead a reader to question those norms and through the undoing of the protagonists, the novels offer alternative performances and performativities of doing gender and of doing business.
Translated title of the contributionPerformance and performativity: Undoing fictions of women business owners
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-437
Number of pages22
JournalGender, Work and Organisation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Other: Available online in Wiley-Blackwell Earlyview


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