So, the year has already entered light speed. At the University of Oregon, we exist on a quarter system. My intellectual calendar, however, is still set to semesters: I continually create more work for myself than possible to keep up with. Yes, this is an excuse as to why I’ve not been more present in the blogsphere.
Thus, a quick update on the work I am doing is in order:
– Peircian trichotomies as modality for cultural criticism. If you think the title sounds complex, you should read some Peirce… it will blow your mind. CS Peirce was the founder of the American pragmatist philosophy, and one of the forefathers of semiotic theory (splitting it with Saussure, a swiss linguist). Many people- especially those in cultural studies, symbolic anthropology, media studies, and art history- utilize Peirce’s second modality of signs, which divides into icon, index, and symbol. This, however, is only a partial view of Peirce’s theory. This second modality merely describes the relationship between the object and the sign; Peirce also built in a mechanism for understanding signification as a processual logic that involves, sometimes, interpreting a sign-object relationship as something other than what it is. Put simply, although a sign may exist in an iconic relationship with its object, it can also be taken as a sign. To account for this requires a re-introduction of Peirce’s first and third modality of signs.
My work in this category has taken two avenues, and exists in two articles currently under review: one on Peircian trichotomies in the analysis of tourist experience and one on using Peircian semiotic analysis of visual symbols on a Sioux Elk Whistle to construct an ethnohistorical account of performance practices around love magic. I hope to make both available as soon as they are published (of course, you will need a subscription to either projectMUSE or JSTOR to access them… copyright laws.).
– Social Landscapes and Sonic Spatiality in Gibraltar. This is the project that I began in Gibraltar this past summer, examining the ways in which sounds in urban space are implicated in the processes of constructing and performing identities. It is also the foundational work for my dissertation, which will compare soundscapes and identity throughout Spanish and Moroccan Andalucía. (Tentative title, as seen on NSF grant: Soundscaping the Mediterranean into the ‘Other’ Spaces of Andalucía: A Pragmatic Semiotic Analysis of Identity and Sonic-Spatial Sign Systems in Urban Gibraltar and Ceuta).
Previous theorists (Schafer, Ingold, etc.) have conceptualized soundscapes in urban spaces as the surface reverberations of the visual landscape; in this way, sounds are always slave to a visiocentric conceptualization of space. Instead, I claim that soundscapes constitute a separate space from the visual, it is instead its own type of architecture to be found next to visual aesthetics and sometimes in conflict with them. In this way, semiotically speaking, the soundscape is not part of the sign system of visual archtiecture, but constitutes its own sign system, a semiosphere (Lottman), within the meta-sign-system of urban space. Urban space is, and has never been, one space for any one group of people- it has always been implicated in different worlds. I suggest that sound and noise are a means to locating one self in the shifting borders between Europe and Africa (not just legal borders, but linguistic, cultural, ethnic, and religious borders as well), such that sounds signify ‘where’ one is cultural-geographically, who one is cultural-ethnically, and who one wants to be known as.
Like my previous work, this draws heavily on semiotic theory as it is present in the work of Greimas and Lefebvre. I also introduce Peircian semiotics in the mix to discuss the ways in which sounds relate to space (as in the sign-object relationship) and how the shifting interpretations of the signs (that is, Peirce’s first and third modality) are the foundation for identity building and identity performance. (NB: note how I’m separating these two concepts- performance and construction are not the same, as one must have the script before they can play the part).
The work from this summer should be out in publishable form soon (more than likely as 2 or 3 different publications), and is a macro-level urban ethnographic analysis of the role of soundscapes in various sections of Gibraltar. I comment on the role of language and its relation to architecture and heritage on Main Street; the power of the state to violate domestic space with its sounds in order to discipline the bodies within those spaces; the ways in which tourists interact with sounds in nature and the intrusion of the non-natural industrial soundscape; and to the ways in which religious structures and war monuments create conflicting ‘echoes’ (the sonic ghosts of the past) on the landscape. The work straddles the boundaries between anthropology and cultural criticism, with a heavy leaning towards cultural semiotics.
On top of all of this, I am finishing my final term of classes (w00t). Starting next term, it’s nothing but teaching credits and individual ‘topics courses’, with the possibility of starting fieldwork in the Winter/Spring term (depending on grants out in the review stages at the moment).