Biosemiotics

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 397–411 | Cite as

Various Shapes of Cultural Biosemiotics

Original Paper
  • 119 Downloads

Abstract

There is a steady and maybe growing impulse in biosemiotics to open itself to the arts and humanities. Recent events and publications indicate a desire expressed by biosemioticians and non-biosemioticians to engage in a dialogue concerning the manner in which living systems are cast, understood and dealt with, a dialogue that will determine the future course of those fields of research. In this article, I react to two recent monographs on the subject, Paul Cobley’s Cultural implications of biosemiotics (2016) and Wendy Wheeler’s Expecting the earth. Life, culture, biosemiotics (2016). After a close reading of these two books, I then briefly present certain issues that shed a different light on cultural biosemiotics: human pressure on other-than-human organisms, domestication and reproductive rights.

Keywords

Biosemiotics and culture Nature-culture Margins of biosemiotics Interdisciplinary dialogue Co-construction of humans and other-than-humans 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This manuscript was written during the winter semester of 2017, while teaching a doctoral seminar entitled Living Signs. Biosemiotics and Its Margins at the Université du Québec à Montréal. For various reasons, principally linguistic and cultural, many of the students, who were all very well advanced and planning their dissertations, were engaging themselves with biosemiotics for the first time. Since the main subject of this seminar consisted in explicating living sign systems, we obviously read core and contemporary biosemiotic texts. And yet, considering the background of our program (arts and humanities), I thought it would be particularly relevant to also examine texts and issues outside of “proper” biosemiotics, but resolutely engaged with questions pertaining to signs, meaning and interpretation in relation to life – what I referred to as the margins of biosemiotics. We ended up doing something with and to biosemiotics that was not core practice, and rather different from what is currently being done under the heading of cultural biosemiotics. I wish to thank the students who participated in this wonderful seminar: Audrey Bélanger, Ivan Bricka, Lucile Crémier, Raphaëlle Dionne, Rana Hatmal, François David Prud’homme. I hope this seminar was as rewarding for them as much as it was for me.

I would also like to thank the reviewers of this journal who meticulously read through early drafts of this paper and whose comments helped me organise my thoughts.

References

  1. Atwood, M. (1985). The handmaid’s tale. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  2. Bardini, T. (2017). Relational ontology, Simondon, and the hope for a third culture inside biosemiotics. Biosemiotics, 10(1), 131–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cannizzaro, S., & Cobley, P. (2015). Biosemiotics, politics and Th.A. Sebeok’s move from linguistics to semiotics. In E. Velmezova, K. Kull, & S. Cowley (Eds.), Biosemiotic perspectives on language and linguistics (pp. 207–223). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cobley, P. (2016). Cultural implications of biosemiotics. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Deacon, T. (2011). Incomplete nature. How mind emerged from matter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  6. Deely, J. (2001). Four ages of understanding. The first postmodern survey of philosophy from ancient times to the turn of the twenty-first century. Toronto: Toronto University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Demaria, F., Schneider, F., Sekulova, F., & Martinez-Alier, J. (2013). What is degrowth? From an activist slogan to a social movement. Environmental Values, 22, 191–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dias, T., Passini, R., Duarte, G., Sousa M. & Faundes, A. (2015). Association between education level and access to safe abortion in a brazilian population. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 128(3), 224–227.Google Scholar
  9. Dutton, Z. (2014). Abortion’s racial gap. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/abortions-racial-gap/380251/ Accessed 6 Feb 2017.
  10. Environment and Climate Change Canada. (2017). Action plan for the woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), boreal population, in Canada – federal actions (proposed). Species at risk act action plan series. Ottawa: Environment and climate Change in Canada.Google Scholar
  11. Favareau, D. (2007). The evolutionary history of biosemiotics. In M. Barbieri (Ed.), Introduction to biosemiotics. The new biological synthesis (pp. 1–67). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  12. Favareau, D., Kull, K., Ostdiek, G., Maran, T., Westling, L., Cobley, P., Stjernfelt, F., Anderson, M., Tønnessen, M., & Wheeler, W. (2017). How can the study of the humanities inform the study of biosemiotics? Biosemiotics, 10(1), 9–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Foucault, M. (1997). “Il faut défendre la société”. Cours au Collège de France (p. 1976). Paris: EHESS, Gallimard, Seuil.Google Scholar
  14. Francis, R. (2015). Domesticated. Evolution in a man-made world. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  15. Heidegger, M. (2008). The fundamental concepts of metaphysics. World, finitude, solitude. 1929–1930. Translated from German by W. McNeill and N. Walker. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Heidegger, M. (2013). Nature, history, state. 1933–1934. Translated from German by G. Fried and R. Polt. With essays by R. Bernansconi, P. Gordon, M. Heinz, T. Kisiel, and S. Žižek. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  17. Hope, J. (2017). Écrire et lire le caribou au lieu de l’achever. The Goose 16(1). http://scholars.wlu.ca/thegoose/vol16/iss1/1/ Accessed June 7th 2016.
  18. International Planned Parenthood Federation (2015). Sexual and reproductive health and rights - the key to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Vision 2020 Report. http://www.ippf.org/resource/vision-2020-gender-report. Accessed 8 Feb 2017.
  19. Mäekivi, N., & Maran, T. (2016). Semiotic dimensions of human attitudes towards other animals: a case of zoological gardens. Sign System Studies, 44(1/2), 209–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mortimer-Sandilands, C., & Erickson, B. (2010). Queer ecologies. Sex, nature, politics, desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Peirce, C. (1992a). The law of mind. In N. Houser & C. Kloesel (Eds.), The essential Peirce. Selected philosophical writings. Volume I (1867–1893) (pp. 312–333). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Peirce, C. (1992b). Evolutionary love. In N. Houser & C. Kloesel (Eds.), The essential Peirce. Selected philosophical writings. Volume I (1867–1893) (pp. 352–371). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Peirce, C. (1998). The basis of pragmatism in the normative sciences. In Peirce Edition Project (Ed.), The essential Peirce. Selected philosophical writings. Volume II (1893–1913) (pp. 371–397). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2015). Making time for soil: Technoscientific futurity and the pace of care. Social Studies of Science, 41(5), 691–716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Redden, M. (2017). “Global gag rule” Reinstated by Trump, curbing NGO abortion services abroad. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/23/trump-abortion-gag-rule-international-ngo-funding Accessed 23 Jan 2017.
  26. Skene, J. & Lewis, C. (2017). Plight of Val d’Or caribou is wakeup call for Quebec. Natural Resource Defense Council. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/plight-quebecs-woodland-caribou-highlight-val-dor Accessed July 4th 2017.
  27. Smith, J. (2017). Oklahoma lawmakers want men to approve all abortions. The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/2017/02/13/oklahoma-lawmakers-want-men-to-approve-all-abortions/ Accessed 14 Feb 2017.
  28. Sonfield, A., Hasstedt, K., Kavanaugh, M. & Anderson, R. (2013). The social and economic benefits of women’s ability to determine whether and when to have children. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/social-economic-benefits.pdf Accessed 8 Feb 2017.
  29. Uexküll, J.v. (2010). A foray into the worlds of animals and humans, with A theory of meaning. Translated from German by Joseph O’Neil. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Uexküll, J. v. (2013). Darwin and the English morality. Translated from German by Morten Tønnessen. Biosemiotics, 6(3), 449–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Valenti, J. (2017). Calling pregnant women “hosts”? We’re in an anti-choice republican dystopia. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/14/pregnant-women-hosts-anti-choice-republican-dystopia Accessed 14 Feb 2017.
  32. Wheeler, W. (2006). The whole creature. Complexity, biosemiotics and the evolution of culture. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  33. Wheeler, W. (2016). Expecting the earth. Life, culture, biosemiotics. London: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  34. Wilson, T. (2017). White GOP lawmakers behind almost every anti-choice bill in 2017. Rewire. https://rewire.news/article/2017/02/13/white-gop-lawmakers-behind-almost-every-anti-choice-law-2017/ Accessed 14 Feb 2017.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations