Verdictive Performatives in The Wire

Although utterances between team members might serve, as Goffman would argue, several purposes conducive to the performative ends, there are of course instances where words are less reflective of the agency of those involved. Instead, these utterances might be considered more as elements of the act that is being engaged in. Severing utterances from the agent(s) involved is an impossibility. In some instances, however, words are less anchored in the illocutionary categories that Austin discerns and more so in the context in which they are uttered. In focusing on the environment in which they are uttered and what task they support, we can see utterances may possess a spectrum of performative value especially between team members who are well attuned to a common purpose. This is remarkably illustrated in a scene from the first season of HBO’s The Wire wherein two detectives examine the kitchen where a young Baltimore woman had been brutally shot several months prior. During the episode “Old...
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