Reflections on religion and the status of ‘the outside’ in the Lotmanian understanding of culture


  • Thomas-Andreas Põder Faculty of Theology, Institute of Theology of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church; School of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Tartu



semiosphere, boundary, explosion, unpredictability, autocommunication, dialogue, religion, theology


The article explores the question whether the way in which Juri Lotman uses the categories of semiotic explosion and unpredictability enables and necessitates the need to give space not only to different descriptions, but also to various self-descriptions (auto-communications) of religion in culture. In other words, the question is posed whether his concept of the semiosphere aids in making sense of the synchronic and diachronic contradictions and controversies in religion – both within what is perceived as a religion and between what are understood to be religions. The focus lies especially on whether Lotman’s semiotic theory of culture has a potential of advancing mutual recognition and supportive respect, that is – solidaristic tolerance between different religious and non-religious ways of being human. The claim is made that this is indeed the case as he models the human situation so that the ‘outside of the system’ is not understood only as a continuation of reality, but visualizes and includes within the system a space for a radical intrusion of possibility – for the truly unpredictable – on the level of culture, humanity, as well as the individual. Therefore, Lotman’s theory of culture could be developed further, in the direction of a translation device between different cultures (of religion), opening up new perspectives for dealing with the challenging semiotic situation in which we all find ourselves living in today.


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How to Cite

Põder, T.-A. (2023). Reflections on religion and the status of ‘the outside’ in the Lotmanian understanding of culture. Sign Systems Studies, 51(2), 239–253.