Language games with ‘Manifesto’

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What happens when ‘manifesto’, as the emblem of a committed artistic or political action, is used as the title of consumer products such as perfume? What do critics mean when they say that a certain work is ‘a manifesto’ rather than literature? When does this label appear as a superlative, and when, in contrast, is it a form of denunciation? What does J. L. Austin mean when he wishes, in the conclusion of ‘How to Do Things with Words’, that his work is not seen as ‘an individual manifesto’? The variations of the word ‘manifesto’ in popular discourse are one of the things that makes the manifesto, as Luca Somigli asserts, ‘notoriously so difficult to define’. Following Ludwig Wittgenstein's concept of ‘language game’ and the rich scholarly literature on the manifesto genre, this essay offers a reflection on ‘manifesto’ as a multilayered, performative concept which enables multiple cultural agents to perform various discursive actions. Examining its contemporary pragmatic and rhetorical meaning in light of its history helps in understanding how the term ‘manifesto’ is actually manifested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Manifestos
  • Language games
  • Rhetoric
  • Pragmatics
  • Modernism


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