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Ethnosemiotics is a disciplinary perspective which links semiotics concepts to ethnographic methods.


Algirdas Julien Greimas and Joseph Courtés defined for the first time ethnosemiotics in Semiotics and language: an analytical dictionary.

"Ethno-semiotics is not truly an autonomous semiotics. If it were, it would be in competition with a field of knowledge already established under the name of ethnology or anthropology, whose contribution to the advent of semiotics itself is considerable. Rather, it is a privileged area of curiosities and of methodological exercises ... . Given that general semiotics authorizes the treatment of non-linguistic (gestual, somatic, etc.) syntagmatic concatenations as discourses or texts, the field of ethno-linguistics can be enlarged to become an ethno-semiotics; analyses, still rare, of rituals and ceremonies lead us to suppose that ethnology can become, once again, the privileged locus for the construction of general models of signifying behavior."[1]

During the 2000s, in Italy, the interest toward the discipline has been renewed thanks to the studies and the researches of Maurizio del Ninno, Tarcisio Lancioni, and Francesco Marsciani. Under the direction of Francesco Marsciani, in Bologna in 2007 the Ethnosemiotic Centre of the Bologna University (CUBE) was founded, active in different fields of inquiry. In 2015, CUBE's experience led to the series Quaderni di Etnosemiotica and the Ethnosemiotics lab.

Focus and fields of inquiry

The ethnosemiologist analyses the systems of signifiers which are individuated in specific cultural contexts through the observation and the application of the ethnographic methods. At the present, the principal researchers which have been realized are focused on urban spaces, therapy, rituals, folklore, everyday practices. In Italy we can distinguish two approaches to ethnosemiotics:

From 2015 the Ethnosemiotics Lab leads researches both in the theoretical and the methodological field. Developed inside CUBE, active at the Bologna University, it conducts multidisciplinary researches. The synergy between ethnographic observation and the analysis of the manifested values offers active results from the point of view of the capacity to describe social phenomena.

See also


  1. ^ Algirdas Julien Greimas, Joseph Courtés Semiotics and language: an analytical dictionary Indiana University Press, 1982 - 409 pages.