Propositions for a biocultural semiotics


  • Kathryn Staiano-Ross



biocultural semiotics, biosemiotics, ethnosemiotics, semiotics of culture, umwelt


The author has used the term ‘biocultural semiotics’ in her previous work, but has never defined this field. She presents twelve propositions that describe and motivate a biocultural semiotics. The author draws on thirty years of field work in Belize and her previous research in cultural and bio-semiotics in support of each of the propositions. Propositions include: biology and culture are so bound as to make a discussion of either without inclusion of the other impossible; both umwelt and the sign are central; every sign is an act of communication; every sign has many interpretant(s); perception is influenced by our physical and cultural umwelt; self is critical to our vision of our place in this umwelt; epigenetic phenomena influence how genes are expressed and effect/affect both phenotype and behaviour; body boundaries are cultural and political creations; the body is a political body and its ownership is always contested; disease and its congeners are cultural constructs; sickness and its signs are created as part of an ongoing personal, social, and political narrative; today we face both uncertainty and opportunity in the natural and cultural sciences. She argues that semiotics possesses the language and methodologies to achieve an understanding of the biological/cultural relationship.


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How to Cite

Staiano-Ross, K. (2020). Propositions for a biocultural semiotics. Sign Systems Studies, 48(2-4), 450–482.