News from Australia

Southern Semiotic Review – new journal initiative

It is pleasing to announce publication of the first issue of “Southern Semiotic Review”. The initial online version offers a range of quality articles, and can be found at www.southernsemioticreview.net. As well as papers, reviews, abstracts and comments will be welcome from international scholars and writers. Where possible, faster publication schedules for individual papers will be encouraged, and the journal will mix the need for archival services as well as scheduled special issues. Continuing expressions of interest for both contributions and editorial assistance are welcome.

Journal Detail

SSR_v1Undoubtedly, an opportunity exists to develop a more comprehensive approach to the study of semiotics in Australia—and perhaps in other countries more distant from mainstream traditions and practices in Europe and North America. On several occasions Susan Petrilli (who is also from Australia) and myself have discussed the opportunities and needs for semiotic study in countries distant from Europe and North America. This is something that has also been discussed with Veronica Devalle from Argentina. Susan and myself have also discussed the possibility of commencing a journal based in Australia. This appears to be the first journal of its kind in this country, and, as a general inter-disciplinary publication, perhaps in the Southern hemisphere.

This initiative will, on occasion, address themes specific to the region of its publication. These could include post colonial geo-politics. It should be remembered that Claude Lévi-Strauss undertook research into indigenous peoples on the three continents of the Southern hemisphere: Australia, South America and Africa. Other special issues and themes will be possible. The first issue includes include papers from Russia, Bangladesh, Italy, the US, and Spain, as well as Australia, with topics that include acculturation and migration, body and gestural language, discourse studies, and well as philosophy of ideas. Further contributions can include but not be limited to popular culture, philosophy and history of ideas, education, religion, aesthetic and social media. Reviews and essays on art events and media production may be submitted. There will be occasional special issues – a (non exclusive) theme for the second issue will be “The Materiality of Signs.”

Team

The editor is Geoffrey Sykes, with Paul Ryder (University of Western Sydney) as associate editor, and a good team of established Australian and international scholars and helpers are already involved. Further expressions of interest from individuals interested in joining the editorial team are invited: this would require only occasional reviews and other assistance.

Submissions

The journal will maintain an inclusive and comprehensive brief, and contributions from all international scholars and writers of varied subject matters and approaches within a consensual, eclectic understanding of semiotics are invited. It is felt that wide subject matter and international contributions will assist—and indeed be necessary to develop—study in a specific region or country. The journal seeks to maintain an ongoing and dynamic conversation, and comments on featured and selected papers will be encouraged. All submissions will be subject to editorial and blind review. APA style preferred when possible. Full details are available on site.

Background

In its teaching and content, semiotics in Australia is undoubtedly fragmented. The influence of British cultural studies and dominance of the functional linguistic studies of Michael Halliday have ensured that semiotic studies in the humanities have retained a very Saussurian and sociological flavour. On the other hand, visual arts, media studies, performance, and some philosophical teaching have represented a diversity of concepts and methods. Yet, in terms of its potential for teaching and research—and the richness of its modern traditions, semiotic study on the whole can seems under-represented or ‘below the radar’: it is hard to recollect a specialised conference, and there seem few courses that are declarative in their nomenclature and specialisation. Because of narrow or patchy teaching in the past, the subject can even be ambivalently received as an arcane and otherwise ambitious pursuit, or at best a limited tool for inter-disciplinary inquiry.

Biographical Detail

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Geoffrey Sykes

Doctoral studies can allow specialised focus, and in my own case this comprised an intellectual biography and applied studies on Charles Peirce. Visits to overseas conferences, including the American Semiotic Society, the IASS, and the Finnish ISS, along with numerous publications in international journals, have consolidated and motivated post doctoral inquiry. I have been fortunate to give guest lectures at several prominent overseas institutions, including the Humanities Institute, Stoneybrook SUNY; Buenos Aires University; the University of Moscow, and the Institute for Slavic Studies, Moscow, and the inaugural lecture at Groupe d’Etudes sur le Pragmatisme, Paris. Regular contact with Gerard Deledalle in the last years of his life proved invaluable and essential for my own inquiry.

My teaching in Media and Communication has been on three campuses – University of Western Sydney, University of Wollongong and, most recently, University of Notre Dame, Sydney. In 2010 I edited an anthology on media studies called “Courting the Media”. Teaching has benefited conceptually from semiotic research, yet one senses limited opportunity for direct semiotic teaching in broad undergraduate courses. For over a decade, Summer sessions at the University of Wollongong allowed specialisation in a hybrid semiotic/ communication subject. At first this was theoretical. Called “Semiotics and Communication”, it was based in the English Department and used Robert Innis’ invaluable “Semiotics: An Introductory Anthology”. Then, as part of the Cultural and Communication program, it focused more on research into social interaction. The subject was trialled at the Hong Kong Baptist University in 2007 as part of an off campus education program. The subject was always popular, attracting double classes, and confirmed the potential of semiotics in teaching programs.

In addition to academic pursuits I am an established playwright and video producer. I have had over 20 professional theatre productions, and national television screenings of video works. Freelance arts activities have increased in recent years, and the journal initiative offers an opportunity to consolidate and extend a long standing interest in semiotics, and relate it to other professional pursuits. I am interested in the applied use of semiotics in arts, law, media, politics, and education.

Expressions of interest about the journal or any other matter may be sent to glsykes@tpg.com.au

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