IASS Meetings History

On this page we provide an introductory overview on all Congresses of the IASS-AIS. More detailed information can be found on the links below.

The IASS-AIS Congresses are the international scientific events in semiotics, so far organized every five years (except the one in Guadalajara, Mexico, which already took place after three years). They are the most visible and thus the most widely known activity of the Association. The following listing is of past, present and future IASS-AIS Congresses.

1. A Semiotic Landscape: Milano, June 1974
Panorama Sémiotique

In his “Preface” to the Proceedings of the Milano Congress (Chatman, Eco & Klinkenberg 1979: v) Umberto Eco begins with a clarification of the objectives for this very first of the IASS-AIS Congresses. Both the organizers and the participants,

“had a fundamental and ‘archaeological’ task: they not only had to discuss the state of the discipline but also 1) the right of the discipline to exist, 2) its history, and 3) the possibility of providing the discipline with a unified methodology and a unified objective.”

This search for, again in Eco’s words (viii), “what semiotics should be” was continued five years later with the second Congress:

2. Semiotics Unfolding: Vienna, June 1979

Both the program and the Proceedings (Borbé 1984) reveal that the organizers of the Vienna Congress and the Program Committee tried to present semiotics in all of the various ways in which it had developed since Milano. According to Cesare Segre, then President of the IASS-AIS,

“la sémiotique occupe aujourd’hui une position de relief parmi les sciences humaines, ses propositions théoriques opèrent en profondité. Si au début la sémiotique pouvait être considérée comme une expérimentation audacieuse, peut-être aussi une mode, elle est maintenant un élément fondamental de notre culture, à laquelle elle a donné des instruments d’interprétation globale.” (Borbé 1984: vi)

On the other hand, the multitude of topics and approaches presented at the Congress led to the often repeated question posed in the Closing Session: “Can Semiotics Be Unified?”

3. Semiotic Theory and Practice: Palermo, June 1984

Taking the diversity within semiotics into account, the four major topics of the 3rd Congress included not only a (re)definition of semiotics but also of its relation to contiguous fields: “Theoretical Semiotics”, “Semiotics and the History of Semiotics”, “Semiotics and the Humanities”, and “Semiotics and the Natural Sciences”. Consequently, the editors of the Proceedings, Michael Herzfeld and Lucio Melazzo, discuss in their “Editorial Note” the “complex intertext that this semiotic enterprise represents” (1988: v)

4. Signs of Humanity: Perpignan & Barcelona, 1989
L’homme et ses signes

The organization of the 4th Congress was somehow an experiment; in the year of the Millenium of Catalonia it took place in two closely related Catalonian cities. The theme for the Congress was explained by the Congress President and general editor of the Proceedings, Gérard Deledalle, in his “Presentation. Semiotics Comes of Age”:

“Because cultures induce specific interpretants, because the new means of communication in the world of today have introduced new types of signs and because the very meaning of ‘culture’ has changed at the very moment when the scale of values which culture promoted in the name of the Human Rights, was ruined by the same Human Rights, new problems appeared which semiotics has to solve and with which it deals here.” (Balat & Deledalle-Rhodes 1992: vii)

Five years later, the title of the above-quoted Proceedings‘ third volume, “Semiotics in the World”, and the inclusion of non-Western semiotic traditions became programmatic for the 5th Congress, the first one not held in Europe:

5. Semiotics Around the World: Synthesis in Diversity: Berkeley, June 1994

The Congress organizers Irmengard Rauch and Gerald F. Carr (who are also the editors of the Proceedings, 1997) understood “diversity” in several ways, only one was geographical, with a session presenting the state-of-the-art in various parts of the world.

“Semiotic theory and application will intermingle within a vast array of arts and sciences, as semiotists from the international community converge in California to address worldwide intellectual challenges at the dawn of a new millenium. The Congress title […] reflects openness and tolerance as themes inherent in semiotic method, suggesting that differences serve to strengthen rather than to divide.” (Call for Papers)

(For a mosaic of reports cf. “5th Congress of the IASS-AIS” in: Bernard, Withalm & Réthoré 1996: 38-62; these reports are also available on this site — cf. the 5IASS-94 pages)

6. Semiotics Bridging Nature and Culture: Guadalajara, Mexico, July 1997
La semiótica. Intersección de la naturaleza y de la cultura | La sémiotique: carrefour de la nature et de la culture

Hundreds of semioticians from all over the world responded to the invitation of the IASS-AIS and the local host, Adrián S. Gimate-Welsh (Universidad Autonoma de Mexico), and gathered in Guadalajara, capital of the State of Jalisco, for five days of intensive scientific exchange and dialog, and thus followed the general idea for the 6th Congress, as expressed in the title:

“The development of science during the last decades has shown the need of an interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars investigating nature and culture in the different corners of the world. Semiotics has shown that it has an important role to play in this scientific intercourse:

It provides a sign-theoretic basis for the coming together of anthropologists, linguists, literary critics, communicologists, mathematicians, biologists, physicists, and others, in an open debate to increase our knowledge about ourselves in our relation with nature and culture.” (Call for Papers)

A wide range of topics was discussed in the numerous sections as well as in the plenary lectures of the invited speakers:

Junzo Kawada (Japan), Michael O’Toole (Australia), Mieke Bal (The Netherlands), Floyd Merrell (USA), Thomas A. Sebeok (USA)

The Proceedings, edited by Adri´n S. Gimate Welsh, of the 6th Congress are available since September 1999, and – for the first time in the history of the IASS Congresses – they are published on a CD-ROM. In addition, a printed book selectionwill appear in 2000.

In the IASS-AIS Bulletin-Annual ’97 -’99 you can find detailed information on the Congress. All this material will also be included in our Congress pages, for a first glimpse – look at the picture of the participants. The entire program with all participants and the titles of their papers is still available on the Web: “http://www.iztapalapa.uam.mx/semiotica/” (one very large document).

7. Sign Processes in Complex Systems: Dresden, Germany, 7-11 October 1997
Significación en los sistemas complejos | Sémioses dans les systèmes complexes | Zeichenprozesse in komplexen Systemen

The 7th Congress was held in Dresden, Germany, at the Technical University . The President of the Organizing Committee, Walter Schmitz, is the vice-rector of the University. The members of the Scientific Committee were:

Jeff Bernard, John Deely, Gérard Deledalle, Takashi Fujimoto, Adrián S. Gimate-Welsh, Dinda L. Gorlée, Richard L. Lanigan, Solomon Marcus, Magdolna Orosz , Pierre Pellegrino (chair), Roland Posner, Rosa María Ravera, Horst Ruthrof, Lúcia Santaella, Thomas A. Sebeok, Eero Tarasti, Vilmos Voigt, Gloria Withalm.

On the 7IASS-99 pages you will find parts of the program (plenary lectures & sessions) and the abstracts of all plenary lectures and sessions. A report on the Congress, a detailed list of all session papers and the HTML-version of the abstracts of all individual papers are in preparation and will be available in about two months. You can also the program (one large PDF-file) from the Dresden website.

The 7th Congress was not only a singular event, but it was scheduled to be the last congress in a tremendous chain of conferences, starting in La Coruña, Spain with the 4th International Congress of the Federación Latinoamericana de Semiótica (September 27 – October 2, 1999) on the topic “Fin de siglo / Fin de milenio”, and continuing in Dresden with the 9th International Congress of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Semiotik DGS / German Semiotic Association (October 3-6, 1999) on “Machines and History”.

8. Signs of the World: Interculturality and Globalization: Lyon, France, July 7-12, 2004
Los signos del mundo: Interculturalidad y Globalización |Les signes du monde : Interculturalité et Globalisation | Zeichen der Welt: Interkulturalität und Globalisierung

The 8th Congress was held in Lyon, France: July 7-12, 2004.

9. Understanding/Misunderstanding: Helsinki/Imatra, Finland, June 11-17, 2007

Program / Call for papers

The 9th World Congress of Semiotics, was held on 11–17 June 2007 at the
University of Helsinki, and at International Semiotics Institute at Imatra.
The congress took place in the two locations as follows:
Helsinki: Monday–Wednesday, 11–13 June 2007
Imatra: Thursday–Sunday, 14–17 June 2007

9th International Congress of the IASS-AIS.

10. Culture of Communication, Communication of Culture: La Coruña, Spain, September 22-25, 2009

Program / Call for Paper

10th International Congress of the IASS-AIS.

The 10th World Congress of Semiotics which was held from 22nd to 26th September 2009 in the city of A Coruña (Spain)

11. Global Semiotics: Bridging Different Civilizations: Nanjing, China,  October 5 – 9, 2012

Towards the IASS11 in China

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

The 11th World Congress of Semiotics which was held in Nanjing, China, from 5th to 9th October 2012

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