CFP: Semiotics in Cultural Studies

Edited Collection
Editors: Prof. Dr. Nadja Gernalzick, Universität Wien and Dr. Thomas Metten, Universität Passau
Stichtag: 2019 10 15

The collection Semiotiken in den Kulturwissenschaften/ Semiotics in Cultural Studies opens a comparative and transdisciplinary discussion on the uses and critical methodology of semiotics in cultural studies. Histories of cultural studies (Assmann 2017 [2006]; Bachmann-Medick 2016 [2006]; During 2005; During ed. 2001 [1993];  Fauser 2011 [2003]; Marchart 2018 [2008]; Musner ed. 2001; Nünning and Nünning eds. 2008 [2003]; Takahashi 2004; Kittler 2000; and many others) have usually not addressed the provenances of the semiotics employed in diverse cultural-studies approaches or have done so peripherally only. While poststructuralist influences are frequent and noted in cultural studies and imply a recourse to the history of structuralist semiotics of some kind, for example, the semiotic theories and models informing various schools and traditions of cultural studies are hardly critically discussed in terms of the role semiotics take in informing and shaping cultural studies methodologies. When cultural studies are understood as media studies, as they must be from a contemporary semiotic perspective, the need for coherent explications of semiotic assumptions and methodologies in diverse scholarly approaches to cultural products becomes even more felt. While histories and systematics of semiotics address areas of cultural-studies interest (Posner/Robering/Sebeok 1997–2004), a comprehensive cultural-studies review of semiotics has not yet been developed. This collection is meant to offer a first stepping stone towards a systematic and critically methodological comparison of the diversity of applications of semiotics in cultural studies by providing, as incentives for a wider discussion, treatments of individual traditions and problematics of semiotics in cultural studies.

Including the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce, there have been and are a variety of explicitly semiotic approaches in cultural studies since the late nineteenth century, for example from Ferdinand de Saussure and structuralism to semiotics of culture by Roland Barthes, or from poststructuralism to representationalism (Birmingham School) and the plurality of methods in so-called cultural semiotics ( The investigation of visual signs after early iconology (Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky) or the diagrams and orders of signs developed for the notation of phenomena in myth studies and early anthropology (George Frazer) also employ diverse semiotic conceptions and methods that have been extended to and are referenced in these days. How do tenets of Saussurian semiology inform structural anthropology? When such methods are critically and comparatively studied, the position of discourse analysis after Michel Foucault on the spectrum also has to be investigated: what is historical semantics (Dietrich Busse) in relation to discourse analysis and cultural semiotics? How is the agency of actors, for example after actor network theory (Bruno Latour), integrated in models of signification and what is the semiotics of actor network theory? The models of signification and of actants are as diverse as are the semiotics and semiologies, even if individual areas of application of semiotics prefer specific models like the notorious use of the differentiation of icon, index and symbol after Peirce in theories of documentary film and photography.

Contemporarily and continuingly, materiality and deixis appear to be important concepts in theories of signs, and the relation of semiotics and media studies is of particular interest in times of a phenomenologization of media studies as in approaches to a “semiotic phenomenology” (Malin Wahlberg) in film studies as well as in new materialism or posthumanism. Elaborations of deconstruction and grammatology, for example in image studies (Sigrid Weigel), call for conceptualizations of principal relationality and differantiality beyond identificatory reductions of signs to referents. Where is the connection of a materialist semiotics in diagrammatics (Matthias Bauer und Christoph Ernst), intermateriality (Andrea Seier) and the materialism of posthumanism (Cary Wolfe)?

We welcome comparative methodological, theoretical and historical discussions of semiotics, investigations of specific problems in semiotics of cultural studies as well as sample applications of methodologically reflected semiotic approaches in cultural studies.

Possible contributions may address or include, among others, the fields of
1. semiotics and cultural studies: approaches and examples since the 1880s:
– anthropology from James Frazer to Bronislaw Malinowski and Claude Lévi-Strauss; iconology and its extension to image studies, visual culture studies and semiotics of the image; semiotics after Charles Sanders Peirce: pragmatism; semiology after Ferdinand de Saussure: structuralism; …
2. semiotics and cultural studies: approaches and examples since the 1950s:
– discourse analysis and dispositives after Michel Foucault, historical epistemology, cultures of knowledge; semiotics of culture after Roland Barthes;  grammatology after Jacques Derrida; …
3. schools and methods of cultural studies and their semiotics:
– Frankfurt school (is there a semiotics of the Frankfurt School?); Birmingham school; postcolonialism; pragmatism; mixed methods and grounded theory; cultural concepts of the body; cultural memory, memory studies; trauma studies; Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis; actor network theory; posthumanism; relationalism; Linienwissen, Liniendenken; diagrammatics; new materialism; posthermeneutics; …
4. transdisciplinary semiotics in cultural studies:
– history and theory of art and architecture; media theory, media philosophy, media ecology; design theory; aesthetics of reception; neurobiology and cognitive science; neuronal networks and artificial intelligence; theater studies, theories of ritual and performance studies; film studies; queer theory; comparative literature; narratology, narrative environments; translation studies; archaeology; historiography; auto/biography and automediality studies; social semiotics; approaches to multimodality; communication studies; numerology; sound studies; media archaeologies; theory of technics and technology; …

The collection is intended as a bilingual volume, and we accept original contributions in English or German. The collection is scheduled to appear with transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany, in a new series on cultural studies under the general editorship of Kulturwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft (KWG).
Please send proposals (about 400 words) in English or German plus a short academic biography to the volume editors by October 15, 2019:  and

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