On the Eve of the 12th World Congress of IASS/AIS in Sofia – Eero Tarasti

Eero Tarasti: 

Presidential Address on the Eve of the 12th World Congress of IASS/AIS in Sofia

“Semiotics harms no one”, once wrote our British, or rather Scotch, colleague Raymond Monelle.  Someone also said that semiotics never dies.

But how can it survive in the contemporary world under many kinds of threats?  One threat in those countries with highly organized academic life is certainly already the increasing power of administration.  And administration is no longer serving people working in scientific fields, education and research, but it is there to rule over, to dominate and control what those very suspect professors do with their “academic freedom”.  Orders, ideas and ideologies – and money – come from other sources and are used for other purposes altogether.  Only top research is worth funding.  Yet in the Finnish language the word “top”  is “huippu”; but this word again is very close to another word, “huiputus” which means cheating.  This is student humour used in my country.

Everyone also knows what the word “innovation” means.  Research must be innovative in order to receive funding, but to be innovative means to serve the globalized market system and society.  Every year new “innovations” are made which force consumers to buy always new and newer things, machines, clothes, anything.  Well, some say and it is of course true, that the development of technology is inevitable – and also good.  How could we continue to live without facebooks and other new tools of communication?

What  has all this to do with semiotics?  Very much indeed.  Italian professor Franco Fabbri pointed out precisely this in his plenary speech at the 1st  ISI congress at Kaunas Technological University:  how we scholars are forced to adapt our purely scientific interests into that bureaucratic system and ideology which has already predetermined the categories of research which can be funded.  One only needs to look at those new areas of research funding declared by different countries, their academies and the European Union itself.  Fabbri’s criticism is right, but it might also be a mistake to fall to the trap of sermons.  The system is what it is, and we have to live under its conditions.  So the goal must be to find out proper means and ways of resistance, which does not mean acceptance of the system but neither does it do damage to ourselves.  Is that possible?

These questions leap to mind immediately when one thinks of the situation of semiotics now.  The picture it gives us is extremely diverse.  We do not need to repeat what has been said many times, namely the victorious march of semiotics into many old and new research  areas.  Semiotics is part of the Bildung – or “cultivation”, as Roger Scruton translates it – of our time.  In many universities during last ten to twenty years, semiotics was able to establish itself as a renowned academic discipline.  The Pan-European doctoral semiotics program started in Sofia, Turin, and Tartu simultaneously after three years of preparation and funded by the EU.  But it was also possible because these universities already had their normal doctoral programs of semiotics.  So nowadays in many universities of the world one can become a doctor or MA of semiotics.  Particularly successful areas have been China and Latin America.

Changes take place, like the aforementioned transformation of the ISI of Imatra into the ISI of Kaunas, directed there by Prof. Dario Martinelli.  Many places which already have been doing semiotics, but without much international attention, now emerge on the map of semiotics.  Such is the Teheran Semiotic Circle, which has existed already ten years and done annual symposia, thanks much to the initiative of Prof. Reza Hamid Shairi at Tarbiat Modares University.  The Eurasian Semiotic Society was started in Almaty, Kazakstan, by Anuar Galiev.  In Turkey there is lively new semiotics in many fields, thanks to scholars like Zeynep Onur and Dogan Gunay. The Dominican Republic just founded a semiotic society as only one sign of the extremely energetic semiotic work done in all of Latin America, as José Maria Paz Gago has reported us.  New journals have been launched: Lexia, Signata, etc.  While old ones continue, such as those of our faithful publisher, Mouton de Gruyter.  Old schools continue and flourish: the Peirceans, the Greimassians, the Lotmanians have their own symposia.  For young semioticians there are our own channels like the Early Fall School of Semiotics led by Kristian Bankov in Sozopol, Bulgaria, Semiotic Fest.  National societies continue, like the American Society, Italian, etc.  New research projects emerge with rich funding like the cognition project by Prof. Sonesson in Sweden. The fact that my list is certainly incomplete shows that no one can any longer master the whole gamut of semiotics.

 

To summarize:  why should one complain about anything?  Although  semiotics seems to be omnipresent, there are reasons for disappointment concerning how semioticians find their places in the working life.  With good reason young semioticians ask, Is there life after the PhD?  In many countries that is the critical point. Too much talent is lost when brilliant doctors of semiotics go back to teaching in schools or to other jobs which as such are reputable but where their full gifts are not employed.  Here we return to the point where we started, namely how can a semiotician survive in the present “technosemiotic” society?

One means of surviving is certainly to get involved in various research projects.  Yet, the only projects to get funding are those which serve the “establishment”, so to say.  Is there anything wrong with serving the establishment?  Do we not hear echoes of the old fashioned ideologies of 1968?  Younger generations hardly even know any longer what happened in 1968.  Semiotics or structuralism was very iconoclastic at that time.  However, every healthy society constantly needs critical feedback to develop as a human society.  How can humanist values have an impact on the contemporary world?  Perhaps by becoming “numanities”, as was the title of the Kaunas congress.  Nevertheless, we know that there is hardly any “progress” in the human sciences.  What certain scholars from Avicenna to Ibn Arabi wrote almost a thousand years ago is extremely relevant today.  So then, is semiotics perhaps an approach which is universal and at the same time critical in its relation to each society and culture in which it emerges.

British cultural theory declares to be on the side of the oppressed and subordinated.  But who are they after all?  Can semiotics find its raison d’être in major humanist issues like the ecological problems dealt with in eco-, bio-, zoo- and other semiotics?  As in conflict resolution as studied in the theories of crosscultural communication, translation?  As in leading strategies of management etc.?  If the decision makers would realize the utility of semiotics in such issues, it would be fine.  Yet, will it ever happen?  Or is it rather a utopia?  Or at least “principle of hope” (Bloch)?

It might irritate some people even to raise such questions.  Many live sorrowless in the present world and accept it as such.  But if that world is totally hopeless and inhuman, as it is in many places, there must be another way out.  Semiotics might be a reasonable way to search for such solutions.

Therefore, let us convene and join together, all semioticians of the world, to ponder and discuss what intrigues us … and the most appropriate moment for this certainly will be the forthcoming Sofia world congress from September 16 to 20, 2014.  One can enroll until August 15 by writing to the director of the congress, Prof. Kristian Bankov (info@semio2014.org).  And as you may know, this is also a convention in which a new Board of the ISI is elected.  This is done by the Executive Committee of the Association.

Therefore, I take the opportunity to thank here all those semioticians whom I have met and with whom I have cooperated during my ten years of Presidency.  You have convinced me strongly that nothing of the theoretical sharpness and currency of our science has vanished, but that, on the contrary, global semiotics is right now going through an extremely fascinating, expansive and creative phase.

On the Eve of the World Congress in Nanjing: Presidential Address

Eero Tarasti

On the Eve of the World Congress in Nanjing: Presidential Address

Dear Semioticians:

Our next world congress approaches, to be held at Nanjing Normal University in Nanjing. Our Chinese colleagues have been working very hard to assure its success. I think this is indeed an historical event, as seen from here in northern Europe: the first, major, world-wide convention of semioticians in the Far East.

Before we meet in Nanjing, let me say a few words about how the situation of semiotics looks to me. The time since our last congress in La Coruna, superbly organized by our Spanish colleagues with our secretary general José Maria Paz Gago, turned out to be a busy one for semioticians all over the world. Our discipline has again reached many new territories, and new semiotic societies have been established in many countries. The publishing continues actively; SEMIOTICA flourishes under Marcel Danesi and his staff with our faithful publishing house Mouton in Berlin. New journals have appeared like SIGNATA in Belgium with Jean-Marie Klinkenberg; a quite new one is opening by prof. Richard Parmentier as a cooperation between Hankuk University (Korea) and Brandeis University (Massachusetts), entitled “Signs and Society”; in China new issues in semiotics appear all the time, a.o. at Sichuan University Press in the series of Prof. Yizheng (Henry) Zhao.

Here in Europe one major issue has been completion of the work at SEMKNOW, the pan-European doctoral program in semiotics, funded by European Union. The long, three-year preparations have taken place among the universities in Tartu, Turin, Sofia, and Lapland, the last of these serving as administrative center. Now the product is ready, and the last board meeting of the team will be held in connection with the Italian Semiotic Society symposium in Turin at the end of this month. Then the program will open in all four of these universities in 2013. It contains many new facets and is not bound or limited to any particular school of semiotics. It also has a strong job-market orientation, thus answering to the challenge of professionalization of the semiotician’s work, an issue long discussed both during and apart from our IASS conventions. Any new university sharing its principles can join SEMKNOW, and is encouraged to look at our web-page.

What about the development of our science in terms of its content? I would like to point up one phenomenon, which I have noticed recently in many contexts, and which concerns the position of semiotics in the academic world. Let us start locally. We just had a meeting of all professors and scholars at our Faculty of Humanities at the University of Helsinki. So many people were present that each scholar was allotted only 3 minutes to report on his/her most current research. Many mentioned such fields as discourse, text, culture, narratology, dialogue, translation, gender, genre, multimodality, etc. But almost no one mentioned semiotics! Although the work they were doing was just and precisely semiotics.

This trend is noticeable in a broader framework as well. Consider, for instance, the British cultural studies approach, which has expanded into so many fields recently, as seen in the use of such widely used textbooks as Chris Barker’s Cultural Studies (Sage 2000). The book – and it is only one example – offers thorough discussions of phenomena such as representation, articulation, subjectivity, culturalism, structuralism, postmodernism, anti-essentialism, textual character of culture, ideology, signifying systems, cultural codes, myth, discourse, body, post-colonial literature, identity, ideology, global, digital, cyber, time-space, city as text, difference, and more. Yet, in the index, the term semiotics appears only twice, and occurs only passingly in the glossary. Such well-known names as Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Foucault and others are introduced, but never referred to explicitly as semioticians. Rather, they appear as individual geniuses who invented this or that notion, but are not seen in their proper intellectual milieu and tradition – which is precisely semiotics.

This phenomenon is indeed paradoxical. One the one hand, we may sense (rightfully) that semiotics has conquered the whole world. Comments about the “Sebeok century” certainly designate this state of the art. We see how ideas, concepts, methods, and theories created by great semioticians in the flow of time have found currency everywhere, in the most diverse fields and disciplines, from the natural sciences to the humanities and social sciences. In this respect, we can only acknowledge that semiotics has made a universal conquest, establishing its presence in a plethora of domains.

On the other hand, this success has taken place at the cost of semiotics losing its name and identity as a discipline. Consider that, if no-one mentions semiotics any longer, and if younger scholars believe they can study directly their great gurus of postmodern thought without notice of their roots in the history of semiotics and its forerunners, then why would semiotics be needed any longer? It is as if people were ashamed to be recognized as semioticians. Perhaps in making a career, one no longer gains faddish credits by using the term semiotics.

To this we can add some present trends in academia and management in many universities. The old idea of a discipline,which was the center and core of all academic and scholarly activity, is fast disappearing (I hope not everywhere). The idea is considered old-fashioned, as soon as college students want teaching to focus on certain concrete and acute problems of contemporary life. Young people think that it is enough to recognize a problem and then, without having any previous erudition, start to study it. This means that, even pragmatically speaking, their arsenal of methods and tools will be very scanty and will hardly lead to any deeper understanding of a phenomenon.

What a pity this is for semiotics, after several decades of fighting to be identified and recognized as a discipline with its own object and methods, alongside other respectable scientific approaches! Should we, then, return to the phase when semiotics was considered an interdisciplinary, umbrella-science that unites and combines other sciences? To put it brutally, semiotic notions have been “stolen” by other, more fashionable and up-to-date looking fields such as cognitive studies, cultural studies, etc. At the same time, it is considered old fashioned for a scholar to represent a discipline called “semiotics”. In all the enterprises of education and management of semiotics, one has had to admit that the term appears side by side with such fields as communication, multimedia, multimodality, psychoanalysis, cognition… and often subordinated to them. Given this situation, I would encourage everyone involved to make overt use of the term “semiotics” and thus return it to its proper place in the history of ideas and science.

It is perhaps proper here to mention something about our future. At the Nanjing congress,election of the new Board of our association will not be held. That election will take place at the following IASS congress, to be held in 2014. For that, the New Bulgarian University in Sofia was settled on as the next congress site as early as in La Coruna, and preparation for the even has already been started on by Vice-Rector of the University, Kristian Bankov. We may note that this, too, will be a historical moment, since it will be the first time the world congress has convened in the southeast Europe.

In closing, I wish all participants of our Nanjing congress smooth and successful preparations, as well as pleasant journeys. We thank in advance our Chinese colleagues for all their precious and painstaking work for semiotics and the IASS. For many this will be a true experience of crossing cultures and of bridging civilizations.

Opening speech Imatra ISI Summer congresses, Finland, June 5, 2011

Eero Tarasti:

Opening speech Imatra ISI Summer congresses, Finland, June 5, 2011

It is a particular joy and honour for me to wish you all welcome to our traditional gathering in Imatra, in fact at our 26th International Summer School for Semiotic and Structural Studies.

For most of you this is not your first time to be here, but, sure, someone has never been here earlier.

Anyway, the history of these summer congresses is rather long, indeed. Frankly said, thinking of what all has happened in general in semiotics and in cultural and academic life in Finland and abroad, it is a small miracle that the ISI continues with perseverance, energy and goal-directedness.

We should say like the Romans in the antiquity: Perfer et obdura, labor hic tibi proderit olim. Or like the Rector of Indiana University, Bloomington in the day of commencement, at the times of Tom Sebeok: Follow your passion, and furnish your mind. We are all convinced that it is this passion for semiotics which has brought us here!

If I said ‘goal’ you may with full reason ask: which goal? What are we semioticians aiming for, what is our aspiration? Is it an effort to semiotize the whole world? Is it a crusade of believers to conquer the entire globe? Is it an intellectual adventure and experiment? Is it a project to improve the world? Is it a program to unify the science? Is it a prospect for education of young people, to make them capable to analyze the globalized world in which we live? Is it a guideline for better career expectations, economic prosperity…and even equality? Is it a language of international scholarship, as it was said as early as thirty years ago?

Certainly there is no one right answer, semiotics continues to challenge younger and older scholars in all countries and continents nowadays. Although by its theoretical objectives it wishes to be ‘universal’ – I say this although the term ‘universal’ may already irritate someone – in every context there are certainly also local, national and particular reasons for adopting it. The success of semiotics is perhaps based on the following facts: it is really a theory and discourse about the contemporary actual world and its problems, that means the world of communication and signification. When exploring the actuality of the world all the time new trends, not to say ‘fashions’, emerge within it, so semiotics has to renew its vocabulary and arsenal continuously. Yet, on the other hand it is keeping touch with its classical heritage. Therefore to study semiotics means to get familiar with its roots in the history of science. Insofar this tradition of thought appears in a certain language it forces us to translate the classics so that they are available for all cultures and communities.

Moreover, it means that always new approaches, methods and concepts have to be forged and elaborated. One should not be afraid of using ‘difficult’ abstract concepts since at the end the most abstract theory can prove to be the most practical one. If there is an emansipatory function and task of semiotics so to say ‘improve’ the world, it is possible only from a deep conceptual analysis. Semiotics is not an easy way to success in the so called’ innovation’ science which is the fashionable and very unfortunate term of contemporary science policy everywhere – and as we know leading to disastrous results as well. Science is slow and tedious, never fast and immediate. If it were that it were probably not science in the true sense, but a kind of exploitation of science for shortsighted practical goals.

If I would make a list of problems and threats of semiotics and for semioticians, it would be as follows:

1) science policies, budgeting, education in general, particularly in the EU, where the only goal is to train young as quickly as possible and with as little costs as possible to certain professions and jobs. What was called by the German, untranslatable term ‘Bildung’ (human development?) seems to be forgotten.

2) In this canonic doctrine of the commercialized world semiotics is seen as a harmful factor, disturbing with its intellectual criticism

3) semioticians have isolated themselves within their own discourse, no longer understood by general public. This view is further nourished by the fact that media has turned its back to semiotics – except the big media stars of it à la Umberto Eco.

4) due to these facts, albeit semioticians graduate from many universities, MA:s and PhD:s in semiotics have difficulties to establish themselves in the academic and work life

5) semiotics itself is split into various schools and groupings which do not communicate with each other; such a ‘cold war’ among its representatives diminishes its authority seen from outside and makes it difficult to join the forces for shared goals.

 

However, all these aspects can be also turned into positive ones. My colleague from Edinburgh Raymond Monelle once gave a speech entitled: “Semiotics does not threaten anyone.”

Semiotics never dies. If the conditions in the public academic life turn unbearable, it goes underground. For such movements modern technology has provided a lot of support and help via facebook and other connections. Can semiotics be a radical science intervening the problems of actual, real life? Yes, to my mind. I just read in facebook a blog maintained by the indignant young Spanish students at their demonstrations. There were fifty entries with the word ‘semiotica’, the analysis of the political situation was just based on semiotic principles. We can only imagine what role semiotics can have in future in many countries now under crises and quick transformations and fights for the freedom. When the Finnish Foreign Ministry supported this event quite remarkably we had to reason and base our application on principles they want to favour: human and civil rights, gender equality, democracy, security, ecology etc. It is true that semiotics can have a lot of pragmatic value for many problems.

We have to note that in Finland President Martti Ahtisaari, the Nobel Peace Prize winner two years ago, has always supported semiotics; and his spouse Eva, whom we just met at a coffee party in Helsinki, has often attended our semiotic events in Imatra. I do not want to steal anyone’s word but I would quote here the words by our colleague, semiotician and just nominated Professor of Translation at Helsinki University, Pirjo Kukkonen, who said that “semiotics is science of hope”. About hope we shall certainly hear even more from Professor Arno Munster, a specialist of Ernst Bloch and his Prinzip Hoffnung.

In fact, many of the sessions and roundtables of our summer school here are, answers to the problems hitherto mentioned. Thanks to our Ministry we have here eminent scholars from Latin America, Cameroun, India and Iran. Moreover China is present, with a delegation sent here by Nanjing Normal University to plan the next world congress of semiotics by the IASS in October of 2012. We wish you warmly welcome!

In spite of the critical comments above concerning the present globalized civilization, we have to be reasonable; at the same time we also have to live in this world and under its conditions. I find it legitimate to utilize and exploit its structures for semioticians so that they get foothold in most diverse positions in the contemporary society. Only by this means semiotics can become influential in the society. It is in this sense we have a section on How One Becomes A Semiotician – which of course for a Lévi-Straussian anthropologist sounds an echo from the chapter Comment devient on ethnologue from Tristes tropiques. The EU is funding a project which endeavours to create a Paneuropean doctoral program in semiotics, a program which should avoid mistakes of some previous experiments in the field, namely that it takes into account the so called labour market orientation. So there is in the studies themselves already anticipations of future jobs. This pilot project is managed by the Lapland University, Rovaniemi, and its partners are Tartu, Turin and New Bulgarian Universities from Estonia, Italy and Bulgaria. It should be ready in 2012; thereafter any European university can join it.

Other themes are Interrelationships of Arts. The utility of semiotics appears often just when by it one finds new connections among familiar fields and phenomena. It is a heuristic method in this respect. Furthermore, the topics of authenticity and inauthenticity approaches the categories of Nature and Culture in Tropics and Arctics, in two different surroundings with applications to tourism and other issues of high social value. There are plans to extend this topics in the Arctic region to cover what can be called ‘arctic identity’ which transgresses all the conventional borderlines among Russia, Finland, United States, Canada, Norway Sweden, and Iceland.

One of the most expected sessions will be the semiotics of corporeality. Body inevitably is the center of all our semiotic activities and processes, be they biosemiotical or aesthetic or psychological. We are grateful to Professor José Enrique Finol for organizing this. And a tradition of its own is already formed by semiotics of translation. If all is said to be communication, we could as well argue that all is translation.

This is the official part of the symposium, In the side of all this many other things happen: we have many Board meetings of different societies and communities, the Finnish semiotic society, has its annual meeting, the ISI Board as well, a part of IASS Board convenes unofficially. Books in the exhibition at State Hotel are mostly from the semiotic collection of City Library of Imatra which has been built during these 25 years. Also books published at our series Acta semiotica fennica are available there.

However, you may guess, that to maintain such a tradition as Imatra ISI, is not always quite an easy task. We are all the time grateful to the City of Imatra, that it serves as our host here in this fabulous and already legendary town of semiotics. The Mayor of the town, Pertti Lintunen will join us on Tuesday to tell the prospects of people living in Imatra; today we shall hear greetings by the great friend of semiotics, emeritus Mayor Tauno Moilanen.

Among the institutions to be thanked I add here the private Niilo Helander Foundation who supported our event again.

With these words and in the atmosphere of hope and optimism, and hilarious expectation of these rich, forthcoming days, I wish you all welcome once again to Finland and Imatra.

 

Eero Tarasti

Professor (University of Helsinki), Director of the ISI, President of the IASS/AIS

 

Membership Letter

PRESIDENTIAL ADRESS OF THE IASS/AIS

Helsinki, Feb 1st, 2011

EnglishFrançaiseEspañol Deutsch

Dear semioticians,

As you may know, the IASS/AIS was established over 40 years ago in Paris as a result of the work some leading semioticians of the time: Benveniste, Sebeok, Lévi-Strauss, Jakobson, Greimas, Eco, Kristeva and others. From the beginning it was intended to be an umbrella organization for all national and professional societies in our disciplinary fields. Since then it has been running such major activities as world congresses of semiotics (now every 3 years), and the highly esteemed official journal of our association, Semiotica, published by de Gruyter Mouton in Berlin).

Despite the efficient and hugely successful running of these high profile enterprises, a consolidated list of potential IASS members has still not been achieved. In order to serve our members’ interests it is vital that every single semiotician reacts to this message and renew his/her membership whilst also encouraging younger semioticians and associated researchers to join the IASS.

As a global institution, the IASS is not in a position to obtain funds national sources. Therefore it is crucial that every individual semiotician should support the IASS/AIS if semiotics in all its forms is to flourish in the contemporary world and its traditions of scholarly enquiry are to continue. Many of you will already be members of scientific societies, some of which may be ‘semiotic’ to some extent; however, this does not preclude you from belonging to the IASS. Indeed, the IASS can only continue with your initiatives. Your participation, therefore, is truly welcomed.

I encourage everyone to renew/start their membership and gain all of the benefits of this international organization in return for the small membership fees indicated below.

(If response to this call for membership renewal is strong, De Gruyter Mouton has informed us of the possibility of offering additional benefits to registered IASS/AIS members, such as a special individual member subscription price to the Semiotica journal and a society member discount on all semiotics titles published at Mouton).

With all my best wishes to your precious work for semiotics,

I remain very sincerely yours,

Eero Tarasti

President of the IASS/AIS

PAYMENTS:

You can make a transference to your bank account (1) or use Paypal and pay with credit or prepaid cards (2).

Membership fees are:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

For Africa:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

1. The payments can be effectuated to the IASS/AIS bank account as follows:

Please copy&paste/print out the membership form and send the filled out form together with your payment (transfer or deposit slip) to the Treasurer:

i) Membership Form

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

ii) Bank Information:

Name of the bank:

UNICREDIT

Via Putignani, 98
70122 Bari BA 
www.unicredit banca.it

Coordinates for the IASS-AIS bank account:

On the name of Susan Petrilli/IASS

SWIFT: UNCRIT2B400

BIC: UNICBANC400

COSTS: your  (this means that expenses for eventual operations, such as paying enrolment fees, falls upon the subscriber).

IBAN: IT  21 M   02008  04000   000010437871

TRANSLATION     IT = Codice paese (country code)
                21 = Check Digit
                M = CIN
        02008 = BANCA (ABI)
             04000 = SPOT. (CAB) 
               000010437871 = N. Conto (Account number)

iii) Treasurer’s Address:

Susan Petrilli (Treasurer of the IASS)

Dip. di Pratiche Linguistiche e Analisi di Testi

Direzione e Sezione Filosofia e Scienze del Linguaggio

Università di Bari

Via Garruba, 6

I–70100 Bari, Italy

phone/fax +390-80-5717460

< s.petrilli@lingue.uniba.it

2. You can also pay using the so-called PayPal:

i) You can follow the links and pay with credit and prepaid cards.

Individual Membership (35 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LWT6VJJLHY946

Group Membership (50 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=CZ72JK7PGPKQE

Institutes Membership (90 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=YVND9N3CQJVW2

ii) To get the discount for Africa:

Please, send an email to borges.iass@gmail.com requesting a payment with the membership form (see below) filled up. You will receive on your email an invoice. Click on the link in the email and make the payment on PayPal website.

MEMBERSHIP FORM

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

Membership Letter (Deutsch)

PRESIDENTIAL ADRESS OF THE IASS/AIS

Helsinki, Feb 1st, 2011

EnglishFrançaiseEspañolDeutsch

Sehr geehrte Semiotiker,

wie Sie vielleicht wissen wurde die IASS/AIS vor über 40 Jahren in Paris als Ergebnis der Arbeit von einigen der zu jener Zeit führenden Semiotikern gegründet: Benveniste, Sebeok, Lévi-Strauss, Jakobson, Greimas, Eco, Kristeva und anderen. Zu Beginn war IASS/AIS als Schirmorganisation für alle nationalen und internationalen professionellen Gesellschaften in unseren Disziplinen gedacht. Seitdem hat sie solche bedeutenden Ereignisse wie den Weltkongress der Semiotik (nun alle drei Jahre) veranstaltet und das hochangesehene, offizielle Journal, Semiotica, unserer Gesellschaft herausgebracht, das von De Gruyter Mouton in Berlin publiziert wird.

Trotz der effizienten und immens erfolgreichen Durchführung dieser große Beachtung findenden Unternehmungen gibt es noch keine bestärkte Liste von potentiellen IASS-Mitgliedern. Um den Interessen unserer Mitglieder dienen zu können, ist es entscheidend, dass jeder einzelne Semiotiker auf diese Nachricht reagiert und ihre/seine Mitgliedschaft erneuert, und auch jüngere Semiotiker und assoziierte Forscher ermuntert der IASS beizutreten.

Als eine globale Vereinigung ist die IASS nicht in der Position finanzielle Unterstützung von nationalen Quellen zu erhalten. Es ist daher ausschlaggebend, dass jeder einzelne Semiotiker die IASS/AIS unterstützt damit die Semiotik in allen ihren Formen in der heutigen Welt gedeihen kann und ihre Traditionen der wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung fortgesetzt werden können. Viele von Ihnen werden bereits Mitglieder von wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaften semiotischer Natur sein, doch möchten wir Sie auch als Mitglieder der IASS sehen. In der Tat kann die IASS nur mit Ihrer Initiative weiter bestehen. Ihre Beteiligung ist daher aufrichtig willkommen.

Ich ermuntere alle Empfänger dieses Briefs ihre Mitgliedschaft zu erneuern oder zu beginnen und damit alle Leistungen dieser internationalen Organisation gegen den kleinen, unten angegebenen Mitgliedschaftsbeitrag zu erhalten.

Mit allen meinen besten Wünschen für Ihre wertvolle Arbeit für die Semiotik

verbleibe ich hochachtungsvoll Ihr,

Eero Tarasti

Präsident der IASS/AIS

PAYMENTS:

You can make a transference to your bank account (1) or use Paypal and pay with credit or prepaid cards (2).

Membership fees are:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

For Africa:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

1. The payments can be effectuated to the IASS/AIS bank account as follows:

Please copy&paste/print out the membership form and send the filled out form together with your payment (transfer or deposit slip) to the Treasurer:

i) Membership Form:

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

ii) Bank Information:

Name of the bank:

UNICREDIT

Via Putignani, 98
70122 Bari BA 
www.unicredit banca.it

Coordinates for the IASS-AIS bank account:

On the name of Susan Petrilli/IASS

SWIFT: UNCRIT2B400

BIC: UNICBANC400

COSTS: your  (this means that expenses for eventual operations, such as paying enrolment fees, falls upon the subscriber).

IBAN: IT  21 M   02008  04000   000010437871

TRANSLATION     IT = Codice paese (country code)
                21 = Check Digit
                M = CIN
        02008 = BANCA (ABI)
             04000 = SPOT. (CAB) 
               000010437871 = N. Conto (Account number)

iii) Treasurer’s Address:

Susan Petrilli (Treasurer of the IASS)

Dip. di Pratiche Linguistiche e Analisi di Testi

Direzione e Sezione Filosofia e Scienze del Linguaggio

Università di Bari

Via Garruba, 6

I–70100 Bari, Italy

phone/fax +390-80-5717460

< s.petrilli@lingue.uniba.it

2. You can also pay using the so-called PayPal:

i) You can follow the links and pay with credit and prepaid cards.

Individual Membership (35 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LWT6VJJLHY946

Group Membership (50 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=CZ72JK7PGPKQE

Institutes Membership (90 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=YVND9N3CQJVW2

ii) To get the discount for Africa:

Please, send an email to borges.iass@gmail.com requesting a payment with the membership form (see below) filled up. You will receive on your email an invoice. Click on the link in the email and make the payment on PayPal website.

MEMBERSHIP FORM

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

Membership Letter (Française)

PRESIDENTIAL ADRESS OF THE IASS/AIS

Helsinki, Feb 1st, 2011

EnglishFrançaiseEspañolDeutsch

Chers sémioticiens, chères sémioticiennes,

Comme vous le savez déjà, l’IASS/AIS a été fondée il y a plus de 40 ans à Paris, suite au travail d’éminents sémioticiens tels que Benveniste, Sebeok, Lévi-Strauss, Jakobson, Greimas, Eco, Kristeva et bien d’autres. Depuis ses débuts, elle a pour vocation de fédérer toutes les associations professionnelles et nationales de nos différents champs disciplinaires. Depuis lors, elle a développé d’importantes activités comme l’organisation des congrès internationaux de sémiotique (qui se tiennent désormais tous les trois ans) et la publication, hautement estimée, du journal officiel de l’association (Semiotica, publié par De Gruyter Mouton à Berlin).

Malgré l’efficacité et le succès indéniables de ces entreprises de haut niveau, une liste récapitulative des membres potentiels de l’IASS n’a toujours pas été établie. Afin de servir les intérêts de nos membres, il est vital que chaque sémioticien réagisse à ce message et renouvelle son adhésion tout en encourageant de plus jeunes sémioticiens et des chercheurs associés à rejoindre l’IASS.

En tant qu’institution internationale, l’IASS ne peut prétendre à des sources de financement nationales. Il est donc crucial que chaque sémioticien soutienne personnellement l’IASS pour que la sémiotique, sous toutes ses formes, puisse s’épanouir dans le monde contemporain et que ses traditions de recherche universitaire perdurent. Beaucoup d’entre vous sont déjà membres d’associations scientifiques, dont certaines peuvent être, dans une certaine mesure, assimilées à la sémiotique ; cela ne vous empêche cependant pas d’adhérer à l’IASS. En effet, l’IASS ne peut poursuivre ses activités que grâce à vos initiatives. Votre participation est donc essentielle.

J’encourage tout un chacun à adhérer ou à renouveler son adhésion ; vous pourrez ainsi profiter, pour la modique cotisation indiquée ci-dessous, de tous les avantages de cette organisation internationale.

Je vous adresse mes sincères remerciements pour votre précieuse contribution au monde de la sémiotique.

Bien cordialement,

Eero Tarasti

Président de l’IASS/AIS

PAYMENTS:

You can make a transference to your bank account (1) or use Paypal and pay with credit or prepaid cards (2).

Membership fees are:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

For Africa:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

1. The payments can be effectuated to the IASS/AIS bank account as follows:

Please copy&paste/print out the membership form and send the filled out form together with your payment (transfer or deposit slip) to the Treasurer:

i) Membership Form:

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

ii) Bank Information:

Name of the bank:

UNICREDIT

Via Putignani, 98
70122 Bari BA 
www.unicredit banca.it

Coordinates for the IASS-AIS bank account:

On the name of Susan Petrilli/IASS

SWIFT: UNCRIT2B400

BIC: UNICBANC400

COSTS: your  (this means that expenses for eventual operations, such as paying enrolment fees, falls upon the subscriber).

IBAN: IT  21 M   02008  04000   000010437871

TRANSLATION     IT = Codice paese (country code)
                21 = Check Digit
                M = CIN
        02008 = BANCA (ABI)
             04000 = SPOT. (CAB) 
               000010437871 = N. Conto (Account number)

iii) Treasurer’s Address;

Susan Petrilli (Treasurer of the IASS)

Dip. di Pratiche Linguistiche e Analisi di Testi

Direzione e Sezione Filosofia e Scienze del Linguaggio

Università di Bari

Via Garruba, 6

I–70100 Bari, Italy

phone/fax +390-80-5717460

< s.petrilli@lingue.uniba.it

2. You can also pay using the so-called PayPal:

i) You can follow the links and pay with credit and prepaid cards.

Individual Membership (35 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LWT6VJJLHY946

Group Membership (50 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=CZ72JK7PGPKQE

Institutes Membership (90 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=YVND9N3CQJVW2

ii) To get the discount for Africa:

Please, send an email to borges.iass@gmail.com requesting a payment with the membership form (see below) filled up. You will receive on your email an invoice. Click on the link in the email and make the payment on PayPal website.

MEMBERSHIP FORM

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

Membership Letter (Español)

PRESIDENTIAL ADRESS OF THE IASS/AIS

Helsinki, Feb 1st, 2011

EnglishFrançaiseEspañol Deutsch

Estimados semióticos,

Como saben, el IASS/AIS fue establecido hace 40 años en París como resultado del trabajo de algunos semióticos destacados de aquel tiempo: Benveniste, Sebeok, Lévi-Strauss, Jakobson, Greimas, Eco y Kristeva, entre otros. Desde el inicio, se pretendió que el IASS/AIS funcionara como una organización “sombrilla” que incluyera a todas las sociedades nacionales y profesionales de nuestros grupos disciplinarios. A partir de entonces, se han organizado actividades importantes como congresos mundiales de semiótica (hoy en día celebrados cada tres años); así como la publicación del periódico de nuestra asociación: Semiótica, publicado por Gruyter Mouton en Berlín.

A pesar del eficiente y gran éxito actual de estas empresas de alto perfil, hasta ahora no se ha logrado consolidar una lista de miembros potenciales del IASS. Con el fin de servir al interés de nuestros miembros, es necesario que cada semiótico reaccione a este mensaje, renueve su membresía y aliente a los jóvenes semióticos e investigadores asociados a unirse al IASS.

El IASS es una institución global que no está en posición de obtener recursos económicos nacionales. Por ello, es de vital importancia que cada individuo semiótico apoye al IASS/AIS para que la semiótica en todas sus vertientes florezca en el mundo contemporáneo, y sus tradiciones de investigación académica puedan continuar. Muchos de ustedes son miembros de sociedades científicas, y algunas de ellas hasta cierto punto son probablemente semióticas. Sin embargo, esto no es un impedimento para formar parte del IASS; es más, el IASS sólo puede continuar con su apoyo.

Invito a cada uno de ustedes a renovar o iniciar su membresía: De esta forma podrás disfrutar de todos los beneficios de esta organización internacional, a cambio de las pequeñas contribuciones indicadas en la parte inferior de esta carta. Tu participación es bienvenida.

Con todos mis buenos deseos para sus valiosos proyectos semióticos,

Un cordial saludo,

Eero Tarasti

Presidente del IASS/AIS

PAYMENTS:

You can make a transference to your bank account (1) or use Paypal and pay with credit or prepaid cards (2).

Membership fees are:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

For Africa:

* in the side of these collective payments everyone who wants to attend for instance General assembly has to pay also the inidividual  payment, to my mind.

1. The payments can be effectuated to the IASS/AIS bank account as follows:

Please copy&paste/print out the membership form and send the filled out form together with your payment (transfer or deposit slip) to the Treasurer:

i) Membership Form:

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

ii) Bank Information:

Name of the bank:

UNICREDIT

Via Putignani, 98
70122 Bari BA 
www.unicredit banca.it

Coordinates for the IASS-AIS bank account:

On the name of Susan Petrilli/IASS

SWIFT: UNCRIT2B400

BIC: UNICBANC400

COSTS: your  (this means that expenses for eventual operations, such as paying enrolment fees, falls upon the subscriber).

IBAN: IT  21 M   02008  04000   000010437871

TRANSLATION     IT = Codice paese (country code)
                21 = Check Digit
                M = CIN
        02008 = BANCA (ABI)
             04000 = SPOT. (CAB) 
               000010437871 = N. Conto (Account number)

iii) Treasurer’s Address:

Susan Petrilli (Treasurer of the IASS)

Dip. di Pratiche Linguistiche e Analisi di Testi

Direzione e Sezione Filosofia e Scienze del Linguaggio

Università di Bari

Via Garruba, 6

I–70100 Bari, Italy

phone/fax +390-80-5717460

< s.petrilli@lingue.uniba.it

2. You can also pay using the so-called PayPal:

i) You can follow the links and pay with credit and prepaid cards.

Individual Membership (35 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LWT6VJJLHY946

Group Membership (50 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=CZ72JK7PGPKQE

Institutes Membership (90 euros):

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=YVND9N3CQJVW2

ii) To get the discount for Africa:

Please, send an email to borges.iass@gmail.com requesting a payment with the membership form (see below) filled up. You will receive on your email an invoice. Click on the link in the email and make the payment on PayPal website.

MEMBERSHIP FORM

Type of membership: ______________________________

Name of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): ___________________________________

Address of the Group or Institute (if that is the case): __________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________

Last Name: _______________________________________
First Name: _______________________________________
Address (home)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
Address (office)*: ____________________________________________________________________

Zipcode: ________________ City: _______________________ Country: ___________________
phone office: +(country) (area) ______________________
phone home: +(country) (area) ______________________
e-mail(s): ___________________________________________
Occupation: ________________________________________

Date: month / day / year
Signature: __________________________

Towards the IASS11 in China

Towards the IASS11 in China

Eero Tarasti

Semiotics lives in historical times.  Namely, what Thomas A. Sebeok envisioned when he entitled his last book Global Semiotics, is no longer a utopia, challenge or prophecy; it is the reality in which we dwell in the contemporary world.  One would even call it a ‘technosemiotic’ stage of societies, a situation which is quite evident.  Never before in the history of mankind have the majority of people living on the globe had such extensive access to communication.  Never before has the atmosphere been so full of messages flying through the air.  What A. J. Greimas said as early as at  the beginning of his career – namely namely, that man lives from cradle to grave surrounded by signs – has become a fact, and in a manner in which one could never have anticipated.

Thanks to the internet, email, Facebook, blog writing, Google Search and more, not only does information move from one place to another without hindrances, but also a totally new sense of community has emerged.  As the Italian newspaper La Repubblica just wrote, we have become not just world citizens, but ‘netizens’.  The bridging of civilizations technologically has become an everyday reality.

Yet, have we also overcome cross-cultural misunderstandings of civilizations?  This was the question asked by the pioneer of this issue, Walburga von Raffler-Engel (who passed away this year).  Technological progress cannot be reversed, and even the most fervent  and radical ecological movements admit that, with modern technology, mankind improves and masters its Umwelt.  So  apocalyptic voices about the ‘ecstasy of communication’ and its disasters, which some philosophers just a decade ago propagated, have since fallen silent.  We can nevertheless pose the same question as the French Academy of Dijon did as early as 1765:  Do civilization and manners promote the progress of mankind?  To which Jean-Jacques Rousseau gave his classical answer:  No!  Now we might reformulate the question for our time:  Does the development of media and technology improve mankind?

When semiotics was launched as a movement in the 1960s, it was closely linked to computer studies, cybernetics.  It claimed, with its formalized language and terminology, to represent a new type of ‘efficient’ methodology in the humanities.  So semiotics was one factor in the huge expansion  of technology-oriented semiosis.  But that was fifty years ago.  How does semiotics fit in relation to the contemporary world of global communication?  Does it only stand aside and  comment on that world, or is it still an active force directing and guiding our sign actions?  I think semioticians have taken seriously the new situation, not only studying how all those new forms of communication ‘function’, but also scrutinizing all this in relation to what is always the other side of the whole issue of semiotics:  namely, signification.  When millions of us netizens, from ‘old’ Europe to China, to Africa, to Latin America, daily write Facebook messages to our circles of friends, we do not only report on what happens in everyday life; we also show that what we think, what we feel, what we do, has a meaning:  I am signifying or expressing myself to others, however they make take it.  In sum, everyone is suddenly brought to the core of semiosis:  its center is here, there or anywhere.  No society can as yet control or prevent this new type of communication/signification; information and knowledge have become more than ever a common property, belonging to any and everyone.

This has strong social implications for the structure of societies all over the world.  Values and ideologies have not disappeared, but are made more and more visible, more ‘transparent’, as it is called.

We can immediately see the impact of this situation on the role of a semiotician as a scholar, who seeks to know and master the laws of communication/signification.  A central question is, Can one become a semiotician by only looking at the internet and remaining within this cyber-reality?  Probably not.  If a semiotician is to be what we call a ‘learned’ man/woman, such mastery can be attained only by reading books as well.  Further needed is personal contact with classic texts of the discipline and, when possible, with the masters living among us.  Likewise necessary is attendance at international congresses and seminars.  For example, in the EU-funded project, the ‘Paneuropean Doctoral Program for Semiotics’, students are required to spend semesters abroad.  Hence to become a learned man or woman is also an international matter, to which is linked the requirement to master several languages.  I hope the ‘old-fashioned’ type of scholar – one who reads books and engages in traditional scholarly discourse – does not disappear altogether.

The learned semiotician is also an intellectual, talking about the values, choices, and actions of people.  Recently Umberto Eco spoke about ‘disorganic intellectuals’, by which he meant that an intellectual cannot deliver and surrender his reason to any ‘higher’ agency, be it state, society, institutions, or whatsoever corporate entity.  Semioticians belong to this caste even to the extreme, in their questioning of certain types of communication; or as Augusto Ponzio put it:  we have a right to be unfunctional (diritto di infunctionalità).  Semiotics distinguishes itself from other approaches to communication by staying in touch with the reality of values; signs are axiological units.  Semiotics may not be able to prevent clashes of civilizations, but in crises it can provide analyses and discourse with which we can discuss them reasonably.

Here we come to the fundamental question of the nature of semiotics, which is this:  Is semiotics universal?  How can we argue that this discipline, with roots in antiquity, in the Middle Ages, then in European philosophy of the classical age, then Charles S. Peirce (who maintained contact with Kant, Hegel and the tradition of German speculative thought) – how can we claim that it would be relevant to our task of bridging civilizations?  Is it not rather a new form of postcolonial discourse, which tries to dominate the world with its conceptual framework?  As we know, such a notion as ‘orientalism’, rather than a plain fact, was a Western attitude towards different civilizations, which the West sought to take into its possession.  I remember once that, in a seminar of Greimas with 200 participants, there was talk about modalities and their definitions.  I said innocently that of course we could not know whether they were valid in non-Western cultures; in China, for instance.  Afterwards two female Chinese students came to me quite upset; they thought I had meant that the Chinese were not capable of applying or conceiving such refined concepts as the modalities.  Heaven knows, that was not at all my intention!  I said it only regarding the lack of crosscultural experience about how semiotics is conceived in a civilization like China.  Also, the Finnish anthropologist Elli-Kaija Köngäs Maranda, friend of Claude Lévi-Strauss, said once to me in Paris, that she wondered whether the Polynesian aboriginals she studied had any idea of  ‘dürfen’, ‘wollen’, ‘können’, ‘wissen’, and so on.  Yet, now,  there is already evidence that such notions and many others can serve as a ‘universal’ metalanguage whereby civilizations can be bridged.  At this very moment, for instance, a doctoral thesis is underway at Helsinki University, by the Lithuanian composer, Ramunas Motiekaitis, who is studying the impact of ‘oriental’ philosophy (mostly Japanese, in his case) on Western avant-garde art music, from Debussy (his symphonic poem La mer was inspired by Hokusai’s painting Wave) to Toru Takemitsu and John Cage, with his well-know, if Americanized, Zen-Buddhist thought.  Greimas’s method serves, in this dissertation, to theorize the link between two civilizations.

Therefore, in preparing the Nanjing World Congress of Semiotics, we must note that we face that moment in which – for the first time – such a global gathering will be organized in the ‘East’.  But  there we Westerners do not meet with unprepared soil.  We are not like missionaries, since the East has long had its own philosophy of semiotics, as well as an awareness of the classical achievements of Western semiotic research, thanks to the unflagging dedication of You Zheng Li to bring this tradition into the Chinese language.

The core problems of communication and signification are of a similar nature to all of us.  Thus, may this encounter, on both sides, count among those creative scientific adventures and discoveries of new worlds.  The history of semiotics will certainly be different after it.

May this be the beginning of further interaction and mutual understanding among diverse cultures, and may it be a lesson in listening to the Other.

SEMIOTICIANS OF MUSIC CONVENE AGAIN

SEMIOTICIANS OF MUSIC CONVENE AGAIN

Eero Tarasti

Introducing the 11th International Congress on Musical Signification at Cracow Music Academy on Sept 27 – Oct 2, 2010:  “Function and Value in Music” (www.icms11.krakow.pl)

When the research project ‘Musical Signification’ was launched in the Parisian spring of 1984 at the French Radio Building, during a live broadcast of a conversation among six scholars, no one could anticipate its future.  Now it is certainly one of the largest and longest standing musical projects in the whole world with its over 660  members.  The title was a wise choice, since to call it ‘musical semiotics’ may have been felt in some circles as too limited, though basically it is, of course, a semiotic approach to music.

After having organized ever more extensive  and energetic international biannual symposia in Helsinki and Imatra, Finland (twice), in Paris (twice),  Aix en Provence, Edinburgh, Bologna, Rome and Vilnius, it has now reached Cracow, one of the musical and intellectual centers of Europe.  Most of the symposia proceedings have appeared as anthologies, i.e., printed books.  Other kinds of activities have included the biannual doctoral and postdoctoral seminars held in Finland, mostly at Helsinki University and at its Department of Musicology.  The administrative center has thus remained in Helsinki – following the advice of A. J. Greimas, who quite at the beginning said:  ‘Take it to Finland, we here in Paris are more like bohemian artists in these issues.’  Hence our last gathering was two years ago at Vilnius Music Academy, wonderfully organized by its staff, and now we shall not be very far from it.  In the meantime, however, our project seems to have grown more and more into a really global scale.  If we take a look at events in our field in the form of a short chronicle, we may note the following.

In spring of 2008, we had the traditional meeting of young Iberian musicologists in Barcelona, arranged by Ruben Lopez Cano, and dealing with music and society.  Then in Northern Cyprus semiotics was launched at Girne American University, under professor Zeynep Onur, an important educational center for young students from Turkey, Syria, Iran and elsewhere.  In spring in Lyon, there took place the defense of a doctoral thesis on French chanson, which applies theories by Louis Panier.  In Berlin, Mouton was ready to publish musical semiotics. In the summer at Cambridge, the Society of  Dialogical Self applied Bakhtinian theories to psychoanalysis and psychology – and music experienced as a genuine dialogue in the original Bakhtinian sense.  In October, the Musical Signification Project gathered, as said above, in the country of Greimas and Ciurlionis.

Later in November the Chinese semiotic society organized at Nanjing Normal University a large international congress on semiotics.  This event was so positive that Nanjing was later chosen to be the host of the next world congress of IASS/AIS in 2012.  A Lévi-Strauss centenary took place in Paris, remembering the man who initiated much in musical as well as general semiotics.  In December in San Marino, the Italian semioticians convened with Umberto Eco.  At Cracow Music Academy, a little later, there was  an international symposium on transcendental values in music; at the same time, the 75th birthday of Krysztof Penderecki was celebrated.  In spring of 2009 Musikeon in Valencia, a private music school, organized a master class for pianists, in which works were played that had been first analyzed semiotically.  In April, Warsaw again saw the famous Beethoven festival by Mrs Penderecki, followed by a Beethoven symposium organized by Professor Tomaszewski.  Paris IV organized a symposium to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Heitor Villa-Lobos’s death; semiotic analyses of his work were heard.

In the summer Pierre Boulez visited the Helsinki Festival, and gave a talk in which he compared listening to music to visiting an art exhibition: in the latter, one is free to leave when one wants; whereas music is much more compelling, because of its temporal basis.  In early September young semioticians of doctoral studies from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Estonia, Germany, Finland convened at Sozopol on the Black Sea under Kristian Bankov from the New Bulgarian University; there the legendary pianist Milena Mollova performed.  In late September the world congress of semiotics was held in Galicia, Spain, at LaCoruna, at the invitation of José Maria paz Gago.  It had a large section on musical semiotics, as well.

The history of the string quartet, presented through a series of lectures and concerts by the Arkadia Quartet, was organized by the Helsinki University Music Society, and attention was paid to the concept of genre.  It was again pointed out that the string quartet constitutes a form of dialogue among its parts and musicians, as was already said in the time Joseph Haydn.  Later in the fall, at the Teatro Malibran in Venice, Handel’s Giulio Cesare was given in an authentic version.  Before the turn of the year the first doctoral thesis on heavy metal rock and functional harmony, by Esa Lilja, was defended at Helsinki University, with Allan Moore as his opponent.  In Innsbruck a project by Monica Flink focused on music and visual arts – with the local music history of the Tyrolean region viewed as a counterforce to Viennese dominance. Brno University distinguished itself as a leading center of Czech music research.

In March the international doctoral seminar on musical semiotics convened at Helsinki, the emphasis being on Mahler, narrativity and some new models of analysis.  Charles Rosen spoke about tonal unity in Mozart operas and played an unforgettable recital with an all-Chopin program.  Chopin’s bicentenary was celebrated in Warsaw by an outstanding symposium, with new information on folklore in Chopin and the impact of bel canto upon his style. In April the Serbian Music Academy in Belgrad organized an international symposium on Nostalgia and Utopia in music.  A little later, at Wales University in Bankor, Tristan Evans defended a thesis with existential semiotic orientations about the postminimalist music of Phil Glass.  In June the ISI at Imatra organized its usual summer congresses of semiotics.  A Paneuropean doctoral program project by the EU was discussed, and steps were taken toward implementing such a program; it should be international, well funded, and labour-market oriented, and should be promising also for musical semioticians when completed in 2012. In addition, an international symposium on Wagner and His Symbols was also held in Imatra.

This short chronicle should awaken us to the essence of Musical Signification research.  It is linked closely, as we see, to events in general semiotics, but also to musical life itself, musical practices, and history.  If semiotics in general is considered a method of making simple things complicated, we may defend such an intellectual enterprise by stating that it also liberates musicians from centuries-old routines by the new aspects it discovers in any musical practice and competence.  Music semioticians are thus intellectuals on the scene of musicology; they try to establish a rational discourse about music, by making its implicit intuitions and arguments explicit, visible and perceivable.  Music is approached as a meaningful activity, not as merely the formal play of sounds without contents.  Whether these meanings it reveals are of a philosophical nature, as Adorno presupposed, depends on the scholar and his epistemic choices.  Music is not given by nature; rather, nature in music appears as a construction.

Neither is music directly obedient to any kind of ideology, since an art-work is always at the distance of a symbol to its object, as Jan Mukarovski already showed us in the days of Prague structuralism.  Music may stem from ideologies, but it is never directly ideological in any organic and automatic way. The mediation from ideology, body, nation, myth – whatsoever we hear and experience as music’s content – is very complicated indeed.  Neither should a semiotic approach lead us to oversemantisation and overinterpretation.  Not just any leading-tone going to tonic should be felt as the expression of lower classes to aspire to and fulfill higher goals and objectives.  Nor is every march rhythm in Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique symphony a sign of armies and boots marching towards victory, on the Karajan interpretation.  Yet, if music has a content, is there any way to decide or judge which is the correct one or at least the least erroneous one?  When Gergijev conducts Sibelius symphonies they become dramatic, colourful, sensual, effective, virtuosic – all that which was not the purpose of his style, which is ascetic.  But on the other hand, music is not bound with original context; new qualities can emerge when, paradoxically, it is forgotten!

The ultimate goal of a semiotician of music is to provide us with concepts and analyses whereby we get closer to the essence of a style, genre, work and composer.  Since our project has already existed a relatively long time – indeed, over 25 years! – it is like the Finnish Swedish poet J. L. Runeberg said:  ‘Våren flyktar hastigt, hastigare sommaren …’  (Spring flees fast, faster even summer).  However, it is clear that certain ideas and concepts emerge from our discourses and talks as more permanent and more conspicuous themes than others.  Often they stem from certain central studies, seminal and published works, that have become available to anyone interested.  Several symposia have been organized around the notion of ‘gesture’, a phenomenon brought into focus particularly by Robert S. Hatten, and launched with his prize-winning monograph on Schubert and other Viennese classical composers.  And we can hardly imagine a symposium without the concept of topics appearing in some form.  Here one may recall the last book by Raymond Monelle, on the topics of the military and the pastoral. Narrativity as well seems to be quite central to our activities, thanks to Marta Grabocz and her recent publications, as well as books by Byron Almén, Kofi Agawu and Michael Spitzer who have also emphasized the notion of metaphor.

The body is at the core of the prenatal styles studied by Gino Stefani and Stefania Guerra Lisi in Rome, and forms the central focus of their musical therapeutics.  Gino Stefani celebrated his 80th birthday just a year ago in Rome with a Festschrift celebrating his longtime work in musical semiotics.  Body, gender and other such notions also appear in the zoomusicology advanced by Dario Martinelli.  The epistemic dimensions have been broadly pondered by Maciej Jablonski in his recent book, Music as Sign (in English). Moreover, the Polish scholar Danuta Mirka, nowadays working in the UK, has published a study on cadenzas in Mozart’s concertos.  How semantics is linked to music was already shown by Constantin Floros in his monumental Mahler study, and Miecyslaw Tomaszewski has shown in his Chopin books the richness of various types of signs in the output of this apparently very classical composer.  In Paris a long series of seminars on the cognitive approach to music has been arranged by the IDEAT center of Costin Miereanu at Paris I.  Also, the Language and Music seminars, led by Bernard Vecchione, continue to be held in Provence.

All this may show how the project of Musical Signification thrives in a dramatically innovative way.  It is the platform for introducing new notions, whose theoretical content is next elucidated among specialists; following this, those notions are ready to be applied by any more pragmatically oriented musicologist.  Thus the conferences of Musical Signification may appear as a manifestation of the avant-garde in musicology; by following them, anyone who wants to be up to date in his/her musical approach will be rewarded with new findings.

Musical signification therefore constitutes a stage between general semiotics and musicology.  There are many avenues leading towards it, from more traditional music theory to more radical deconstructionist, gender-analytic, or sociological and cultural approaches.  From this paradigm we can pick up what is needed to clarify any style, genre or composer with which we are concerned.  As stated earlier, Poland has been very actively participating in our project; therefore it is natural that we now convene in Cracow, amidst the old Polish tradition, but also the place from which novelties in thought always spring up.

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