Starting a Dialogue between Social Semiotics and Complexity Theory

We recently published Making Signs, Translanguaging Ethnographies edited by Ari Sherris and Elisabetta Adami. In this post the editors introduce us to the book and its unique Bricolage and Talmudic sections.

Preparing this volume has been a work of encounters which gave way to layers of experiences and we hope is just one possible opening to a new way of thinking about how we make and interpret meaning. It started as a serendipitous encounter between the two of us, when we met once at a symposium on translanguaging and ethnography and later began conversations on the possibilities of crossing perspectives, in an attempt at starting a dialogue between social semiotics and complexity theory. The experiences of the volume’s contributors form additional layers at the core of this volume from ethnographic/documentary linguistics, sociolinguistics, linguistic landscape, and multimodality (broadly conceived). The volume is also a site of encounters among four theorists of what we envisage as among the most innovative and promising perspectives on research and activism across inclusive approaches to communication, language and education with a Bricolage piece asking Jan Blommaert, Ofelia García, Gunther Kress and Diane Larsen-Freeman to answer ten key questions and trace interrelations with each other’s viewpoints.

Besides the eye-opening preface by Jeff Bezemer and Gunther Kress, and the introduction written by us, the volume hosts seven chapters presenting empirical studies that relocate margins at the centre, through investigations of phenomena and settings that have been little explored so far, and by attempting various entanglements between approaches that have rarely been combined. Research of and through these uncharted entanglements allows the authors (and hopefully the readers) to show how observing and documenting domains of communication that are often neglected can not only problematize traditional ways of knowing, but also shed new light onto social interaction, meaning-making and human communication as a whole.

Finally, the volume attempts at stretching the boundaries of (the often too limiting) academic genres. It does so first and foremost in the Bricolage; the process of its making has been a wonderfully enriching enterprise, for us, the editors, and (we like to believe) for the four theorists too, who had never met on (screen and) paper before. Working with them at the Bricolage, we have not only had further proof of the immense intellectual value of Diane, Gunther, Jan and Ofelia, but also experienced the immensely humane, thoughtful and caring characters of the four. We hope that the Bricolage may be the first of a series opening a new genre enabling academic dialogue through joint forms of writing. A second genre innovation is in the final chapter of the book, in which we draw from the Talmudic tradition to construct commentaries to each of the empirical chapters that add additional layers, imagined next steps in meaning-making and interpretation. The commentaries ask themselves how these studies would be reframed and (re)investigated further by adopting a social semiotic and a complexity theory perspective. This, too, is an attempt to start a dialogue between two approaches that have good grounds for potential mutual integration and yet had not met until now. We hope this dialogue will continue further with those who read the book. We look forward to hearing from you!

Elisabetta Adami e.adami@leeds.ac.uk

Ari Sherris arieh.sherris@gmail.com

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Engaging Superdiversity edited by Karel Arnaut, Martha Sif Karrebæk, Massimiliano Spotti and Jan Blommaert.

Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities

In August we are publishing Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities edited by Emili Boix-Fuster. Here, Emili explains how he became so interested in the subject of urban diversity.

Having been born and raised in a big city, Barcelona, I’ve always been fascinated by its linguistic diversity, and above all, by the interrelation of this diversity with social inequality. Language, by means of its endless nuances mirrors the distribution of power and solidarity in society. In my city, for example, Catalan and Spanish coexist and compete in all domains in everyday life. My father, one of the first Catalan sociologists, always encouraged me to observe this heterogeneity.

Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic CommunitiesMy new book, Urban Diversities and Language Policies in Medium-Sized Linguistic Communities, resonates this initial motivation. I wanted to compare the linguistic landscape of my native city with other urban areas in similar medium-sized linguistic communities. This endeavour has resulted in seven chapters dealing with this intermingling of language in society, namely Brussels (French/Dutch), Vigo (Galician/Spanish), Valencia (Catalan-Valencian/Spanish), Barcelona (Catalan/Spanish), Copenhagen (Danish/English), Helsinki (Finnish/Swedish/English) and Tallinn (Estonian/Russian/English). In all of them a competition takes place not only between the local languages, but also increasingly with the global language, English.

I am convinced that observing and studying linguistic diversity through the lens of cities, allows researchers and citizens alike to understand and improve linguistic coexistence.

9781847698346For more information about this book please see our website. You might also be interested in one of our other titles: Survival and Development of Language Communities edited by F. Xavier Vila.