This edited volume provides a biosemiotic analysis of the ecological relationship between food and medicine. Drawing on the origins of semiotics in medicine, this collection proposes innovative ways of considering aliments and treatments. Considering the ever-evolving character of our understanding of meaning-making in biology, and considering the keen popular interest in issues relating to food and medicines - fueled by an increasing body of interdisciplinary knowledge - the contributions here provide diverse insights and arguments into the larger ecology of organisms’ (...) engagement with and transformation through taking in matter. Bodies interpret molecules, enzymes, and alkaloids they intentionally and unintentionally come in contact with according to their pre-existing receptors. But their receptors are also changed by the experience. Once the body has identified a particular substance, it responds by initiating semiotic sequences and negotiations that fulfill vital functions for the organism at macro-, meso-, and micro-scales. -/- Human abilities to distill and extract the living world into highly refined foods and medicines, however, have created substances far more potent than their counterparts in our historical evolution. Many of these substances also lack certain accompanying proteins, enzymes, and alkaloids that otherwise aid digestion or protect against side-effects in active extracted chemicals. Human biology has yet to catch up with human inventions such as supernormal foods and medicines that may flood receptors, overwhelming the body’s normal satiation mechanisms. This volume discusses how biosemioticians can come to terms with these networks of meaning, providing a valuable and provocative compendium for semioticians, medical researchers and practitioners, sociologists, cultural theorists, bioethicists and scholars investigating the interdisciplinary questions stemming from food and medicine. (shrink)
The object of our paper is to examine how wine-related knowledge and practices play an important role in determining the respective flavour experiences of novice wine drinkers and sommeliers. We defend the idea that sensation is informed by knowledge, as it circulates in a cultural environment. Biosemiotics has developed appropriate concepts helping us understand how the same wine can generate diverging experiences. Within a biosemiotic framework, we consider wine flavours as relational, semiosic experiences produced by the convergence of sensory-discriminative, motivational-affective (...) and cognitive-evaluative factors. Drawing from fundamental biosemiotics we argue that these factors vary according to the creature and its simultaneously biological and cultural umwelt. We conclude by examining a series of empirical studies consolidating the idea that sensation is informed by knowledge and language. (shrink)
This paper concerns epistemic developments in the field of sensory perception. I argue that Uexküll’s concept of the Umwelträume and certain principles of multisensory integration explain and describe in similar terms the manner in which different sensory modalities interact. Indeed, they both concern knowledge, describing in spatial terms how the mind makes itself up, makes up its objects, and how the objects, in turn, make up the mind. My intention is to set side by side these two trends of thought (...) in order to mutually explain them. I suggest that there is some sort of dialectic at work between the Umwelträume and multisensory integration: in the first case interaction between the senses results in the creation of high definition subjects, whereas in the latter the interaction of the senses results in high definition objects. (shrink)
There is a steady and maybe growing impulse in biosemiotics to open itself to the arts and humanities. Recent events and publications indicate a desire expressed by biosemioticians and non-biosemioticians to engage in a dialogue concerning the manner in which living systems are cast, understood and dealt with, a dialogue that will determine the future course of those fields of research. In this article, I react to two recent monographs on the subject, Paul Cobley’s Cultural implications of biosemiotics and Wendy (...) Wheeler’s Expecting the earth. Life, culture, biosemiotics. After a close reading of these two books, I then briefly present certain issues that shed a different light on cultural biosemiotics: human pressure on other-than-human organisms, domestication and reproductive rights. (shrink)
In the original published article, in discussing Paul Cobley’s work, I made an unclear statement and one that was actually false. I mentioned that Cobley is critical of “otherness” as it has been explored in sex and gender studies.
Writers and readers of literature are, among other things, biological entities that evolve under particular political (geographical/historical) conditions. A comparative study of certain texts by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) can help us establish a fruitful interpretation of this threefold link between literary art, biology and politics. However, careful analysis reveals that Heidegger remains too rooted in an old-world, nationalistic and anthropocentric paradigm. We will attempt to rethink Heidegger’s assumptions on the grounds that literature, a cultural practice, enables us to delineate our (...) natural environment. By reformulating Heidegger’s line of thought, we can more precisely address the plural structure of our biotic and political-literary experiences. (shrink)