Semiotic Anthropology


Semiotic Anthropology

For open discussion about anthropology and semiotic theory

Members: 105
Latest Activity: Sep 23, 2014

Discussion Forum

Semiotics of Race 1 Reply

Started by Veerendra Lele. Last reply by Joel M. Wright May 3, 2010.

Recent Semiotic Anthropology article on dead bodies

Started by Veerendra Lele Nov 20, 2009.

Peirce or Saussure: a useful starting point for semiotic anthropology? 10 Replies

Started by Josh Reno. Last reply by John McCreery Jul 12, 2009.

Comment Wall

Comment by Josh Reno on May 29, 2009 at 5:45pm
Hello Veerendra! Thanks for starting this group. I am very interested in semiotic theory (particularly the Peircian variety).
Comment by Veerendra Lele on May 29, 2009 at 6:30pm
Hello Josh, that's great -- I was thinking Peirce (the little graphic is a drawing of his from his Collected Papers on the 'rhizomatic' nature of the semiotic triad), and am guessing most anthros in this group will have an interest in pursuing Peirce for anthropological uses, but am also hoping other forms of semiotic theory might be shared as well!
Comment by Nold Egenter on May 29, 2009 at 7:19pm
Maybe of interest?

Both papers maintain that signs made of plant materials were an important part of the prehistoric (and historical) tradition, but this did not convincingly show in archaeology.
Semantic architecture an the birth of script
A theory of the origins of writing based on architectural anthropology


Nold Egenter: Semantic architecture and the interpretation of prehistoric rock art: An ethno-(pre-historical approach) In: Semiotica 100 2/4 1994 :201 - 266
Comment by Nold Egenter on May 29, 2009 at 7:25pm
I would be interested in a discussion about "anthropology and semiotic theory" in which I would play the 'advocatus diaboli' saying that signs and symbols were in fact and physically an important part of prehistory and had great influence on the formation of culture, but the archaeological method did not show them because they were made of ephemeral fibrous materials. Consequence: there is a chance to reconstruct this semiotic basis ethno-pre-historically.
Comment by Veerendra Lele on May 29, 2009 at 7:39pm
Nold, Thanks for the cites for those two papers - my first reaction would be that I think you are correct (and I think a Peircean reading would agree) that plant materials did/do a certain kind of semiosic work (and Peirce's semiotic extends to/includes all kinds of semiosis, including 'natural' semiosis) -- I'm very interested in materiality, ie, the durable/resistant/obdurate/habitual nature of matter and its semiotic effects; and as you note, the ephemeral qualities of certain plant materials make them an intriguing (ambivalent?) site for cultural practice and recording.
Comment by Josh Reno on May 29, 2009 at 8:43pm
Nold, I am absolutely fascinated by your argument and agree with Veerendra that one could easily support it through Peirce. I am thinking in particular of Jesper Hoffmeyer or Terrence Deacon's work - as I understand it they both suggest that semiosis be associated with the growth of life processes. Is it reasonable to argue, therefore, that the "natural world" suggested the possibility of culture to humankind?
Comment by Rosalie Allain on June 11, 2009 at 2:41pm
Hi, I'm very new to semiotic anthropology, but found this article which might be of relevence to this discussion and 'natural semiosis' and Kohn's idea that 'life is semiosis'.

I was wondering if anyone has read Kohn's article (a very interesting read, on interspecies semiotic communication):

How Dogs Dream: Amazonian Natures and the Politics of Transspecies Engagement, American Ethnologist 34(1): 3-24.
Comment by Rosalie Allain on June 11, 2009 at 2:44pm
this is the article in plant "semiosis" :

Comment by Josh Reno on June 11, 2009 at 2:55pm
Eduardo (Kohn) was heavily influenced by Terrence Deacon while at Berkeley and is dedicated to theorizing 'the anthropology of life' in the context of the South American Runa with whom he did fieldwork. He has a book in preparation on the subject that uses Peirce's categories extensively and to beautiful effect, so I highly recommend it to anyone on this list. I am trying to get him to join OAC, and he can tell you more himself if I'm eventually successful.
Comment by Rosalie Allain on June 11, 2009 at 3:43pm
That would be interesting! As a side note, can anyone recommend an introductory reader to semiotics (or semiotics in anthropology), which covers most of the significant thinkers in this field. I was thinking about getting "Semiotics: The Basics by Daniel Chandler". Any opinions?


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