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1. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Eric Landowski L’épreuve de l’autre. — Testing the other
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Testing the other. It is nowadays a commonplace of academic discourse on social sciences, especially when it comes to such disciplines as anthropology and semiotics, to oppose the old (and old-fashioned) methods of the “structuralists” to post-modern and post-structural epistemological attitudes. Structuralism, it is said, was based on the idea that it is possible to apprehend the meaning of cultural productions from an exterior and therefore objective standpoint, just by making explicit their immanent principles of organization. Today, on the contrary, a totally distinct approach of cultural productions would stem from the consciousness of a strict interdependence, or even of an identity in nature between subject and object at all levels of the process of knowledge, at least in the area of the humanities. However, such a crude opposition proves insufficient when one observes the effective practices of current research. The example here analysed is the account given by the American anthropologist Paul Rabinow of his first mission abroad: Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco. The analysis, based on the use of a semiotic modelling of interaction, consists in exploring the variety of positions respectively adopted by the anthropologist and his informants according to circumstances and contexts. Four regimes are in principle distinguishable: programmation, based on regularity and predictability of the actors’ behaviour, manipulation, based on some kind of contractualization of their relationships, adjustment, based upon reciprocal sensitivity and various strategies permitting to both partners of the interaction to test one another, and a regime of consent to the unexpected or the unforeseeable. The main result of the analysis resides in the possibility of showing that at each of these styles of pragmatic interaction corresponds a specific regime at the cognitive level as well. This leads tostressing the complexity, if not heterogeneity, of the strategies of knowledge involved at various stages of anthropological research, from the collection ofdata to the cooperative production of new forms of understanding. Taking the risk of generalization, one might also consider the interactional device, which ishere tested through the reading of P. Rabinow’s report as a metatheoretical model describing the various epistemological stances at work and at stake in thepractices of research in social sciences at large.
2. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Eleni Mouratidou De la sémiotique de la représentation théâtrale à l’anthropologie culturelle: Pourquoi le théâtre (résiste)? — From the semiotics of theatrical representation to cultural anthropology or why theater (resists)?
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From the semiotics of theatrical representation to cultural anthropology or why theater (resists)? In this paper I propose an epistemological approach to the field of theatre semiotics from the beginning of the 20th century to our days. Firstly, I point out two different periods that have influenced theatre semiotics. The first one centres on reflections and studies by the Prague School of Structuralism. More precisely, I address Jan Mukařovsky’s essays about art and society as well as Jindrich Honzl’s contributions to the study of sign and system in theatre. The second period presented here is that of theatre semiotics in the early 70s and late 80s in France.My goal here is to expose the main reasons that led theatre semiotics to a deadlock in the early 90s. Theatre semiotic research has been rich and fruitful in the beginning of last century. However, in our days it is generally deemed unadvisable to describe theatre representation in terms of sign and system.Although theatre semiotics used to be presented in French university classes, it is no longer possible to do so.Even though general semiotics has progressed by denying the importance of structure and by refusing to search for the minimal sign and its code, theatre semiotics has remained faithful to old communicational semiotics research.Throughout my contribution, I would like to examine the kind of semiotic field best fit to approaching an artistic domain such as theatre. In other words, I would like to show that Western theatre, granted it can be seen as a semiotic object, is first and foremost an artistic and cultural one.In order to do so, I propose a theoretical and methodological framework based on a specific semiotic model: the “indicial semiology” proposed by Anne-Marie Houdebine. Inspired by Juri Lotman’s essays about culture and art, I will try to set “indicial semiology” in the general field of a cultural anthropology.
3. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Eva Toulouze, Liivo Niglas Parler de soi pour changer le monde. — Speaking about oneself in order to change the world
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Speaking about oneself in order to change the world. Juri Vella is a Forest Nenets reindeer herder, writer and fighter for his people’s rights. In his private life, he enjoys silence, as it is a rule in his culture. But the public man, who is graduated from the Literature Institute in Moscow, is aware of the power of speech, and knows how to use it for his goals, to support his vision. He had to realise that the native peoples in Western Siberia have lost much of their skills and acquired none during the Soviet period, in which they were compelled to integrate in the society and to attend Soviet institutions as school or the army. This process has been intensified in the latest fifty years, with the invasion of their traditional territories by oil industry. But Juri Vella expects the oil reserves to finish one day, and then the aborigines will lack the goods bestowed upon them by “Western” society and will have to survive with the help of the traditional skills. He tries to promote his vision of the natives able to live in both worlds and able to recover their dignity. This article analyses his public speech in this behalf and the way Juri Vella speaks about himself, enlarging his “ego” both to his clan and the native peoples in general and connecting it very directly with the space around him. The mainsources are Eva Toulouze’s fieldwork at Juri Vella’s taiga camp, living with the family five months, and the film Liivo Niglas has shot about him in 2003.
4. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Richard Pottier Carré sémiotique et interprétation des récits mythiques
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Semiotic square and the interpretation of myths. Greimas’ semiotic square is built upon the hypothesis that the concept of elementary structure of signification is operational only if subjected to a logical interpretation and formulation. However, Greimas’ commentaries on that model are questionable. On the one hand, he asserts that logical nature of the connection between any two terms, s1 and s2, is undetermined; on the other hand, he provides the relations s1 – non s1, s2 – non s2, s1 – non s2 and s2 – non s1 with a logical status. Now, since these two statements are inconsistent, a choice must be made: either these four relations have a logical significance, and then the semiotic square is a logical square, so that s1 – s2 has to be interpreted as an incompatibility relation; or s1 – s2 has no logical meaning, and then not only the status of the other relations given in the model is not logical either, but also the simple fact of applying negation to the terms s1 ands2 is meaningless.That dilemma follows from an argument, that Greimas has laid down as a principle, under which linguistic communication depends on the existence of a deep level (or immanent level) of the significance, that is supposed to precede its manifestation in speech. If, conversely, we assume that significance is produced at discursive level, and that consequently the patterning of linguistic codes relies on what could be called a semantic sedimentation process, which comes out from linguistic activity, there is no more dilemma.Such a thesis, which implies that the elementary structure of signification must be seen as the schematization by the describer of speakers’ mental activity, leads to a point of view inversion. Nevertheless, the two conditions which, according to Greimas, are required for catching the meaning are still relevant, except that, contrary to Greimas’ opinion, they now apply at the speech level: two discursive units can be opposed if they simultaneously include a common feature which join them, and a distinguishing feature which disjoin them.
5. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 34 > Issue: 2
Gabriella D’Agostino La construction de la mémoire coloniale en Érythrée: les Erythréens, les Métis, les Italiens. — The construction of memory in colonial Eritrea: Eritreans, Mestizos and Italians
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The construction of memory in colonial Eritrea: Eritreans, Mestizos and Italians. Focusing on some passages of life histories collected in Asmara and based on the ‘memory of Italy’, I study the representation of the past in order to reveal the shaping of the subjective experience by the colonial discourse in Eritrea. If the main aim of my essay is the understanding of the play of interactions between individuals and collectivity, one more important element I take into account is ‘memory’ seen as a “social selection of remembering” (Halbwachs). I try to connect the social position and narrative role of single members (of the Eritrean society) to the meaning it takes the ‘going back to the past’ for them as individuals belonging to a group (an Eritrean, a Mestizo, an Italian) in relation to the past and the present. The consequence is that the logic dominant/dominated is inadequate to explain the internal articulations of the colonial context and that the focus must be shifted on individual and collective systems of expectations and on the negotiations of meaning resulting from a “past always to be recovered” and a “present always to be rebuilt”.