Signs in Society

Signs in Society : Studies in Semiotic Anthropology

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Richard Parmentier takes up Ferdinand de Saussure's challenge to study the "life of signs in society" by using semiotic tools proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce. He studies how semiotic theory can illuminate highly complex social and cultural practices.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 319 pages
  • 155 x 235 x 19.05mm | 594g
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 0253327571
  • 9780253327574
  • 1,716,235

Back cover copy

Signs in Society takes up Ferdinand de Saussure's challenge to study the ""life of signs in society"" by using semiotic tools proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce. Richard J. Parmentier explicates Peirce's fundamental semiotic concepts and evaluates their potential for cultural analysis. After considering the possibility of using complex semiotic processes, Parmentier examines the relationship between social action and theoretical discourse. Parmentier applies Peircean concepts in two ethnographic case studies based on fieldwork in Belau (Micronesia), one dealing with historical changes in the symbolism of mortuary exchange valuables and the other analyzing an instance of political oratory as a contextual performance. Then, using diverse data - from Melanesian mythology and Babylonian ritual to contemporary American ""living history"" museums and television advertising - Parmentier finds tropic innovation, formalized re-enactment, and controlling metalanguages in cultures across space and time. Finally, the author uncovers the pragmatic dimensions of the comparative work of philosophers of religion and locates strategies of naturalizing and conventionalizing discourse in both social reality and social theory. Throughout Signs in Society Parmentier focuses on links between text and context, linguistic and nonlinguistic signs, semiotic and metasemiotic levels, and elementary and complex semiotic phenomena. It demonstrates the effectiveness of semiotic theory in illuminating complex social and cultural practices.
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Table of contents


Part I Foundations of Peircean Semiotics

Peirce Divested for Nonintimates
Sign, Object, and Interpretant
Symbols and Legisigns
Language and Logic
The Trichotomies
Scientific Knowledge and Cultural Belief

Peirce's Concept of Semiotic Mediation
The Fundamental Model of Semiotic Mediation
Semiotic Mediation and the Correlates of the Sign
Thirdness as Mediation
Sign as Medium of Communication

Part II Signs in Ethnographic Context

Transactional Symbolism in Belauan Mortuary Rites
Responses to Death
Initial Funeral Transactions
Burial Practices
Final Transactions

The Political Function of Reported Speech
Authoritative Speech
Ethnographic Context
Ngiraklang's Speech to the Council
Metapragmatic Elements in the Speech
Textual Pragmatics

Part III Comparative Perspectives on Complex Semiotic Processes

Tropical Semiotics
Levels of Semiosis
Collectivizing and Differentiating Sybolization
Convention and Innateness
Obviational Exchange
Tropes and Narrative
Foi Cultural Semiotics

The Semiotic Regimentation of Social Life
Social Action and Semiotic Text
Content and Type in Ritual Performativity
Institutional Regimentation of Touristic Experience
Ideological Regimentation in Advertising

Part IV Social Theory and Social Action

Comparison, Pragmatic, and Interpretation
Models and Strategies of Comparison
Comparative Philosophy of Religion as a Discipline
Comparison and Interpretation as Practical Reason
Directions for Future Research

Naturalization of Convention
Arbitrariness and Motivation
Naturalization in Social Theory
Naturalization and Conventionalization in Social Reality

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About Richard J. Parmentier

RICHARD J. PARMENTIER, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University, is the author of The Sacred Remains: Myth, History, and Polity in Belau and articles on Pacific ethnography, anthropological linguistics, and semiotic theory.
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