Semiotic anthropology

Semiotic anthropology

The phrase "semiotic anthropology" was first used by Milton Singer (1978). Singer's work brought together the semiotics of Charles Peirce and Roman Jakobson with theoretical streams that had long been flowing in and around the University of Chicago, where Singer taught. In the late 1970s, Michael Silverstein -- a young student of Jakobson's at Harvard University -- joined Singer in Chicago's Department of Anthropology. Since that time, anthropological work inspired by Peirce's semiotic have proliferated, in part as students of Singer and Silverstein have spread out across the country, developing semiotic-anthropological agendas of their own.

Elizabeth Mertz has recently reviewed the burgeoning literature in semiotic anthropology (2007).


  • Singer, M. B. (1978). "For a Semiotic Anthropology," in Sight, Sound and Sense. Edited by T. Sebeok, pp. 202-231. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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