The Semiotics Workshop

Culture in Context

Author: mcelgunn

Michicagoan Conference, May 6-7, 2016

Technologies of Semiosis

18th Annual Michicagoan Conference

May 6–7, 2016


The annual Michicagoan Conference focuses on the social and cultural analysis of semiotic forms centering on language, providing graduate students with an attentive forum in which to present their work and have it discussed by faculty and students from the Universities of Michigan and Chicago and beyond. We welcome work from post-baccalaureate students at all stages, and encourage participants to submit formal conference papers as well as to discuss their dissertation proposals and research reports. Commentators for each panel are drawn from participating faculty. The conference promotes ongoing scholarly exchange and collaboration among students and faculty of the two host institutions and regional affiliates.


This year, meeting at the University of Chicago, our theme is “Technologies of Semiosis.” Our keynote speaker this year is John Durham Peters, A. Craig Baird Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. We seek papers taking semiotic, sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropological approaches to the ways in which language and other semiotic forms are intertwined with technology. We encourage participants to interpret the concept of technology broadly, focusing on one of the themes below or expanding into other domains:


  •      Media: How are the semiotic affordances of different media – be they written text-artifacts, television, radio, film, or more novel technologies of communication – used to interactional ends? How do different types of media intersect, or, as affordances, overlap? What temporalities do they call forth? What kind of material infrastructure do they rely on and bring into being? How do different artefactual modalities of representation, like graphic inscription, audio transcription, or translation across media, function as kinds of semiotic technologies?


  •      Language as technology: How can language and its use serve as a kind of technology? In what ways can language be understood as a kind of technique, knowledge, skill or craft? How does an attention to different sensory modalities, like the visual and the sonic, contribute to this sort of analysis? Here we might consider such concepts as voice, noise and gesture, among other things.


  •      Emergent structures of machine-human interaction: Moving away from face-to-face interaction, what of non-face-to-face human-machine/machine-human interaction? What consequences do such interactional modalities have for language? What new theoretical approaches might need to be elaborated to account for machine-mediated human interaction? What might attention to these microstructures reveal about larger scale processes?

Presenters will have 15 minutes to present research papers or project proposals, and they will be asked to submit completed papers to their assigned discussant by April 22nd. There is no registration fee for the conference. Transportation will be covered for all Michigan presenters. Meals will be covered for all registered attendees.


To propose a presentation, please submit the following materials, as email text or attachment, to by March 11, 2016:

  1. Title of presentation
  2. University and departmental affiliation
  3. Abstract of 250 words or less
  4. Audio-visual requirements


All other inquiries, including questions concerning access for persons with disabilities, can be directed to Hannah McElgunn ( or Janet Connor (

Winter 2016 Schedule

The Semiotics Workshop Winter 2016 Schedule


January 14th : “Mane, Mothers and Regulating Circulations”

Bill Feeney

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

University of Chicago

Discussant: Perry Wong, Anthropology


January 28th – “Objects and artifacts: the thinginess of bureaucratic objectivity”

Anna Weichselbraun

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

University of Chicago

Discussant: Lily Ye, Comparative Human Development



February 11th – “Recursive Republican Racialization: Economic Moralities and the Language of Exclusion in Senegalese Households in Paris”

Chelsie Yount

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Northwestern University

Discussant: Omer Ahmed, Anthropology


February 25th – “You become everyone”

Colin Halverson

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

University of Chicago

Discussant: Giovanni Ricci, Anthropology


March 10th – Antics of the Virtual: The Otherness in the Self in the Japanese Expression, Nanchatte

Miyako Inoue

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Stanford University

Discussant: Bill Feeney, Anthropology

Spring 2015 Schedule

The Semiotics Workshop is pleased to announce our Spring 2015 schedule:


April 16th: “Signs of Disease”
Colin Halverson
PhD Candidate, Anthropology
University of Chicago
Discussant: Kieran Kelley, Anthropology

May 8th and 9th: Michicagoan Conference at University of Michigan

May 21st: Title TBA
Beth Brummel
PhD Candidate, Anthropology
University of Chicago
Discussant: Chris Bloechl, Anthropology

Friday, June 5th: Title TBA
Joint session with Language Variation and Change WOrkshop
John Haviland
Distinguished Professor, Anthropology

Winter 2015 Schedule


The Semiotics Workshop is pleased to announce the Winter 2015 schedule:


January 15th: “Nimeboeka: Ideologies of Sheng as ideologies of youth”

Elizabeth Brummel

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Univ. of Chicago



January 29th: “Mane, Mothers and Regulating Circulations”

William Feeney

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Univ. of Chicago


February 12th: “‘From Paper Buildings to Building Paper: Translating the Plan on a New Delhi Construction Site”

Adam Sargent

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Univ. of Chicago


February 26th: “Elegance versus brawn: Gendered ideologies of self and consumption practices among Muslim diasporic youth in Northern Marseille”

Cécile Evers

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Univ. of Pennsylvania


March 5th: “Semiotics of Spelling Bees: Soundscapes of Language and Materiality”

Shalini Shankar

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Northwestern University


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