The term "semiotics of culture" was first advanced by Jurij Lotman of the Moscow-Tartu school of semiotics. Semiotics of culture refers to the study of communication through signs including by implication non-human communication, which includes biosemiotics as pioneered by Kalevi Kull in the Moscow-Tartu school. This area of study has turned away from positivism and views culture as essentially integrated in spite of inner tensions and conflicts. Semiotics of culture is interdisciplinary, rejecting false boundaries between disciplines. This volume discusses the major founding scholars of this field, including Charles Sanders Peirce, Roman Jakobson, Jurij Lotman, and Mikhail Bakhtin who established dialogue as the basis of all human communication. The concepts of self and other - thus, of identity - are focal investigations in ethnic studies. More contemporary figures, Eric Wolf, Kalevi Kull, and filmmaker Jean Rouch also feature in the book. Franz Boas is treated here as a pioneer in American anthropology who prefigured the semiotics of culture. His approach was fundamental to the anthropologist Eric Wolf, who abandoned the misconception of fixed, timeless culture and established the importance of historical context in his study of power. Because semiotics of culture comprises an extremely broad area of scholarship that touches upon all human and nonhuman behavior, this book will be appropriate for a variety of courses in the humanities and social and natural sciences.
Irene Portis-Winner, Professor of Anthropology, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (retired), received her BA from Radcliffe College, her MA from Columbia University in Anthropology, and her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Anthropology. She has taught at the University of Tartu, Estonia, the University of Urbino, Italy, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, Masaryk University, Czechoslovakia, Tufts University, Lesley University, Wayne State University, and Emmanuel College. Her research focuses on peasant societies and semiotic theory. She is the author of seven books including A Slovene Village and Semiotics of Peasants in Transition: Slovene Villagers and their Ethnic Relatives in America and over 70 articles, many on semiotic theory.