“Everybody’s Just Working the Marks, Brother”: A Kayfabe Reading of Social Identity, Performativity and Performative Identityt

Russell Gilbert



In 2011, mathematician and economist Eric R. Weinstein argued that kayfabe is “[a] sophisticated ‘scientific concept’ with the greatest potential to enhance human understanding.” Kayfabe, much like the professional wrestling industry, is an autonomous phenomenon. Defining it solely as a method of deception is denying its own autonomy as a social and cultural nonpareil. Kayfabe plays an integral role in the processes of societal interaction. Its identity, as well as its usefulness in academic discourse, relies upon the notion that all human interaction cannot exist without it. Kayfabe in many ways performatively embodies the questions of ontology, the nature of existence, the limits of reality and its perception and understanding. Humans create their own realities and truths based upon what they see, experience and believe. Nobody can declare with absolute certainty that the reality they experience is the same as the person next to them. It does not mean that either reality is not valid, nor that the truths which are born from those realities are without substance: it simply means that reality is kayfabe. Expanding upon concepts of human understanding and experience found in Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By (1980) and drawing upon notions of fictional worlds and representation elaborated in Walton’s Mimesis as Make-Believe (1993) this article will interrogate existing ontological concepts through the lens of kayfabe, utilising case studies from the world of professional wrestling, to recontextualise how fictions can create new realities and enable a greater understanding of social identity, performativity and performative realities. It will argue that by constantly engaging in kayfabe, humanity is able to imagine things into existence and, subsequently, collectively imagine new realities.


kayfabe, professional wrestling, truth, reality, identity, existence, ontology, metaphor, mimesis, Kendall Walton, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson




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