Research at the Department of Semiotics
|The Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu is one of the leading research centres of semiotics in the world. The main directions of research are cultural semiotics, biosemiotics, and social semiotics, as well as theory and history of semiotics.
Cultural semiotics proceeds from the traditions of the Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School. There is active research being conducted in semiotics of film, semiotics of literature, translation semiotics, and on multimedia; in addition, issues of names and naming have also been studied. The key concepts that connect these different research topics are modelling, transmediality, dialogue, autocommunication, semiosphere, mediation, and others. Researchers have conducted various case studies based on Estonian culture.
The foundations of biosemiotics are to be found in Jakob von Uexküll’s scientific legacy, as well as in the works of Thomas A. Sebeok and Charles S. Peirce. Primary directions of research are the issues of semiotic evolution, human-animal communication in a zoosemiotic framework, and semiotics of culture-nature relations. In recent years, research results have been published on the theoretical basis and history of biosemiotics, sign typologies, and biological mimicry. In addition, hybrid phenomena of nature and culture, such as guiding dogs, zoos, landscape, and nature writing have been under scrutiny.
Sociosemiotics deals with semiotic studies of society, social space, and sign processes therein. Relevant research topics concern historical relations between theories in semiotic and social sciences, semiotic analysis of maps and mapping, as well as semiotics of urban environments. In addition, there are elaborations of political semiotics, with focus on representations of power, hegemony, and biopolitics. Researchers have conducted case studies on various topics of recent Estonian history and culture.
Studies in theory and history of semiotics, with special focus on the legacy of the Tartu-Moscow semiotic school, have an important place in the department’s research activities. They make it possible to further develop semiotics as a discipline, to elaborate its conceptual field and methodology. They also aid in elaborating the understanding of the identity and place of Tartu’s semiotics in the wider world.
Researchers at the Department of Semiotics have been successful in applying and carrying through several research projects (see Research Projects at the Department of Semiotics). Larger international conferences have been held regularly (in recent years, for instance: “Gatherings in Biosemiotics 12”, July 2012; “Zoosemiotics and Animal Representations”, April 2011; “Culture in Mediation: Total Translation, Complementary Perspectives”, November 2010; “Frontiers in Comparative Metrics”, November 2008; a.o.). The Department of Semiotics publishes academic journals and book series. One of the cornerstones of research is the Department’s library, including the valuable Thomas A. Sebeok memorial library.
The staff of the Department of Semiotics participates actively in international semiotic organisations, such as the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS), Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS), International Society for Biosemiotic Studies (ISBS), a.o. The Department of Semiotics also cooperates with centres of semiotics in Helsinki, Sophia, Copenhagen, Aarhus, Toronto, Turin, Prague, NanJing, a.o. places.