On the Eve of the 15th World Congress of IASS/AIS in Thessaloniki

Paul Cobley and Kristian Bankov

Dear delegates of the 15th World Congress of the IASS,

It is a matter of mere days until we will be meeting in Thessaloniki.

After a period in international history during which many people have experienced separation and isolation, as well as the stress related to a life-threatening virus, the re-uniting of friends and the coming together of new acquaintances could not be more profound.

Reflecting on the functions of an academic association in 2016, we noted that even when sophisticated social networks were facilitating global academic connections, “The decisive means by which scholars could interact in an international community was through periodic meetings in person”.

“This remains the case”, we added, observing that “there can be no substitute for it”.

The last few years have witnessed the proliferation of remote digital communication, with even local interactions necessitating contact by Zoom and other platforms. The developing digital environment has meant that we can keep in contact and carry out work in a much more meaningful way during what would previously have amounted to durations of non-communication or communication in a protracted, wearying fashion.

Yet, central to scholarly communication – despite accusations that it appeals to the metaphysics of presence – the immediacy of feedback and the tangibility of the non-verbal environment that constitutes in-person dialogue remains indispensable.

For that reason, among many, we welcome you to the 15th World Congress.

Above all, the IASS and the Congress organisers – the latter with a strong heritage in semiotics, not to mention proximity to the cradle of Western civilization – will be doing their utmost to ensure that friendships will be created and continued while adding to the sum of human knowledge.

For the IASS, specifically, there are a number of ventures, germane to this and evident at the Congress, that we should report in advance.

Special Interest Groups

Our commitment to international collaboration and co-operation across schools has resulted in the Special Interest Group (SIG) initiative. Originally mooted by our much-missed former Secretary-General Jeff Bernard in the late 1990s, the SIGs bring together semioticians with interests in a particular field, along with the added ingredient, in the present, that those SIGs purposely involve scholars from diverse semiotic schools and varied locations round the globe. We have supported each group to bring their activities to a culmination in the production of a joint-authored book (not an edited collection) which will cement the spirit of collaboration.

Look out for the SIG panel on ‘Food and foodways in the lifeworld’ run by Simona Stano and Celia Rubina, as well as that on ‘Semiotic research of migration narratives’ run by Anna Maria Lorusso and Claudia López Barros. A third crucial SIG, on ‘Semiotic analysis’ is run by Priscila Borges and Didier Tsala-Effa. This SIG presented at a preliminary meeting during the 3rd ‘Semiosis in Communication’ conference in 2020, will feature a future panel at a further conference and will also produce a book.

A further call for IASS SIGs will be distributed following the 15th Congress. Please keep an eye on your inbox and the IASS website.

General Assembly

In addition to these traditional intellectual contributions to the Congress, there will also be a series of other events to attend in the days after registration for the Congress on 29 and 30 August.

On Wednesday, 31 August, the General Assembly of the IASS will take place. Open to all members, it will feature reports on the Association’s finances, how it has spent money, a report from the editors on the progress of the Association’s prestigious journal Semiotica, as well as a presentation of the arrangements for the 16th World Congress of the IASS in 2024.

Tribute to Eero Tarasti

The General Assembly will be followed by a reception to celebrate the 70th birthday of one of semiotics’ greatest convenors in the last fifty years, Eero Tarasti.

IASS Early Career Researchers Network

Already in 2014, Tarasti observed, “With good reason young semioticians ask, ‘Is there life after the PhD?’  In many countries that is the critical point. Too much talent is lost when brilliant doctors of semiotics go back to teaching in schools or to other jobs which as such are reputable but where their full gifts are not employed”. As Tarasti’s successors, the current Bureau of the IASS has sought to address this issue to its fullest ability. Further to the IASS-sponsored First World Meeting of Early Career Researchers in Semiotic Studies, held in Medellin, Colombia, the IASS will launch an Early Career Researchers Network at the 15th Congress on the evening of 1 September 2022. Led by Jorge Eduardo Urueña López (Latin America), Peng Jia (Asia), Alin Olteanu (Europe) and Damien Tomaselli (Africa), the launch event in Thessaloniki will seek to bring together Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in semiotics across the globe in order to find ways to collaborate, to promote semiotics and to thrive. All IASS members are welcome, but the Network will, especially, look to attract the participation of members who have gained a PhD within the last 8 years, as well as PhD, Masters and undergraduate students.

IASS Journals Fair

Immediately prior to the launch of the IASS Early Career Researchers Network, and in the same room, at 1930 on 1 September 2022, the Journals Fair will take place. Open to all members who wish to publish articles, but especially to ECRs, the Fair offers the chance to speak with the editors of a selection of the top semiotic journals. Members can find out what kind of articles the journals are looking for and whether members’ planned articles will fit there. There will also be opportunities to look at and download sample issues.

IASS publications

Finally, we should mention some IASS publications that are pertinent to the Congress and current initiatives of the Association

Firstly, the Proceedings volumes of World Congresses from 2007 to 2019 are available to download on the IASS website.

The series of volumes featuring keynote/plenary papers from previous Congresses, Semiotics and Its Masters, will continue with Volume Two in the Autumn.

Finally, fulfilling, along with the SIGs, the pledge made at the closing session of the 13th World Congress to promote collaboration among and greater knowledge of different schools of semiotics, the IASS has contributed funds to the translation of key contemporary works in the Greimassian tradition. The first two titles published in this initiative are José Enrique Finol’s On the Corposphere and Gianfranco Marrone’s Introduction to the Semiotics of the Text. More volumes will follow.

That’s enough of the advertising for now.

Most importantly, on behalf of the Congress organisers, as well as everyone who gives their time to supporting the IASS, we look forward to warmly welcoming you to what promises to be an inspiring and wonderful event, an emotional reunion and an advance in human wisdom.


Kristian Bankov


Paul Cobley


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