Semiotics of Peasants in Transition

Slovene Villagers and Their Ethnic Relatives in America

Semiotics of Peasants in Transition

Sound and Meaning: The Roman Jakobson Series in Linguistics and Poetics

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Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: 13 b&w photos, 4 figures Published: July 2002

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Linguistics

In Semiotics of Peasants in Transition Irene Portis-Winner examines the complexities of ethnic identity in a traditional Slovene village with unique ties to an American city. At once an investigation into a particular anthropological situation and a theoretical exploration of the semiotics of ethnic culture—in this case a culture permeated by transnational influences—Semiotics of Peasants in Transition describes the complex relationships that have existed between and among the villagers remaining in Slovenia and those who, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio.
Describing a process of continuous and enduring interaction between these geographically separate communities, Portis-Winner explains how, for instance, financial assistance from the emigrants enabled their Slovenian hometown to survive the economic depressions of the 1890s and 1930s. She also analyzes the extent to which memories, rituals, myths, and traditional activities from Slovenia have sustained their Cleveland relatives. The result is a unique anthropological investigation into the signifying practices of a strongly cohesive—yet geographically split—ethnic group, as well as an illuminating application of semiotic analyses to communities and the complex problems they face.


"[A] slim and friendly book. . . . With Semiotics of Peasants, Portis-Winner offers us a book that is 'good to think' from any number of perspectives. . . . [It] enriches the ethnography and anthropology of Europe. . . . [R]emarkable, and well worth our attention." — Jennifer R. Cash , Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe

"[This book is] a tribute to [Portis-Winner's] creativity and contains a valuable body of data relevant to Slovene ethnic history." — Arthur J. Vidich, Slovene Studies

“This is an important ethnography, very different from the usual run-of-the-mill village ethnographies of ex-Yugoslavia, and the methodology followed is a useful and potentially important addition to the literature on transnationalism.” — Michael Herzfeld, author of Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Irene Portis-Winner is a Visiting Scholar (2002–2003) at the Philosophy of Education Research Center, Harvard University.

Table of Contents Back to Top

I. The Dynamics of a Dialogic Relation between a Peasant Village and Its Ethnic Counterpart: A Semiotic Approach

Prologue: “The Strange Intruder” (from Peirce): A Peasant Village and Its Many Others

1. A Glance at the Village and Its Sister Ethnic Communities in Cleveland and Hibbing

II. Theoretical Issues and Terminology: From the Outer to the Inner Point of View

2. Nationalism, Ethnic Identity, Transnationalism: Issues of Terminology

3. Can We Find the Inner Point of View? Interpretative Anthropology, Performance Anthropology

4. Semiotics of Culture

III. The Village and the Slovene Communities in Cleveland and Hibbing: A Historical Perspective

5. Zerovnica: Its Past and the Question of the Future

6. The Story of the Ethnic Community in Cleveland

IV. Semiotic Portraits

7. Semiotic Portraits in Cultural Context

8. Concluding Remarks


Selected Bibliography

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2841-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2827-8
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