Politics of Representation: Semiotic Struggles in South Africa
Written by Tomaselli, Keyan
| Author: Tomaselli, Keyan |
Other Authors: Arnold Shepperson
Published: Caiet de Cinema, 11, 1995, 1-20.
Place: Timisoara, Romania
Copyright: Tomaselli and Shepperson
Though scholars in South Africa have been studying semiotics since the late 1960s, the method was only recently contextualized in African terms (Shepperson 1992a; Shepperson and Tomaselli 1993; Sekoni 1992). The reconstitution of semiotics in terms of African gnoses has followed two basic trajectories in South Africa: the first and most recent relates to specifically African ways of making sense, deriving from the oral consciousness. The second is a more conventional appropriation which has been applied to the study of academic disciplines such as literature, theatre, media and so on. Both are criss-crossed by political considerations.
The bulk of critical social semiotic work has been done by media and cinema studies scholars (Van Zyl 1977, Tomaselli 1985; Tomaselli et al 1986; Tomaselli R.E et al 1989). The semiotics of popular theatre flared in considerable depth during the 1980s (Steadman 1985, 1989; Dalrymple 1987; Tomaselli 1981a, 1981b). Literary criticism has a longer tradition of semiological application, but has tended to concentrate on internationally known writers.
In problematizing semiotics and semiotic discussion in South Africa during the 1980s, we discuss the following areas:
a) the politicising of semiotics - left-wing struggles over representation;
b) Reception theory - de-politicizing semiotics;
c) Locating semiotics in the concrete concerns of African social and political developments.
Each of the three areas will be examined in terms of domestic political dynamics. We concentrate on that specifically semiotic work -- which on the whole is rather little -- which is closest to our own concerns and knowledge and which applies the method within the African and South African contexts.
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