I was reading this article when I came across the following quote:

"it’s a savvy and interesting thing to not perform the legitimacy of The Professor. Because this is the double thing: you’ve got people saying, 'You’ve made a bad choice, but we have to keep sacred this term professor so you have to perform this cultural capital.'"

Twice in succession she's using "perform" in a phrasing that sounds unusual and stilted to me. Is this an example of "perform" being used as jargon in a particular technical sense that's unfamiliar to me? Or is it just one person's slightly unconventional turn of phrase?

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    The person quoted by the author of this (very well-written and well-argued) article has a rather clumsy turn of phrase. – Erik Kowal Jun 21 '14 at 4:53

I haven't previously heard of a person "performing capital," whether monetary, cultural, or human. Nor have I previously heard of someone "performing the legitimacy" of something.

The quotation appears to have been drawn from an extemporaneous conversation, so the speaker's wording may simply have gotten muddled as she attempted to express her views. In any case, I had to read the surrounding article before I could make any sense of what the speaker was saying, which I think amounts to this:

Declining to perform the standard roles of a professor is a smart strategy for adjunct professors to adopt because it exposes the public's double-track thinking about the role of adjunct professor. On the one hand people say, 'You’ve made a bad choice in choosing a profession that pays so poorly, but that's your own fault," while on the other they say "A professor is obligated to perform certain duties beyond lecturing in a classroom—and since you are technically a professor, you have to perform them, too."

Even as translated, the argument isn't terribly clear to me, but at least "perform" now appears in connection with things that are recognizably performable.

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