9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Working with Visual Methods Building II, C2.02

Spatial Semiotics of Difference in Urban Vernacular Neighborhoods

As noted by Krase and Hum (2007), visual sociology of changing urban neighborhoods is not merely an aesthetic exercise of matching images to important ideas. Cities on every continent have been deluged by the rapid influx of large numbers of people and products from cultures different from native-born residents. Although diverse people frequently live within the same large-scale political boundaries, the real test of community takes place during the course of everyday life on the streets, in the shops and public spaces of neighborhoods. Because of globalization, increasingly, ?cultural strangers? share common environments. For sociologists, the question of how different ? possibly even hostile ? groups live together in smaller-scale city, town, and urban neighborhood environments becomes more and more important. At present, examination of the visual semiotics of difference is especially important as native European cultures interact with Islamic culture. How does the presence of markers of the being-in-space of recent Muslim inhabitants change the meaning of vernacular neighborhoods? The semiotics of Jakobson can help make sense of the ways in which people incorporate the various meanings of social differences into their own narratives. Visual data on the vernacular landscapes of neighborhoods in the US and Europe will be presented as examples of the different kinds of semiotic markers. These urban spaces are filled with signs of collective identity and, often, group conflict. In the physical environment, architectural details, commercial signs, graffiti, among other things, signify the flows of people and culture. So too do social practices, such as commercial transactions, socializing, and commuting, in the public spaces of urban neighborhoods. Our analysis reveals distinctive visual representations of social interactions marked by religious or cultural differences.

Krase, Jerome and Tarry Hum. 2007.?Ethnic Crossroads: Toward a Theory of Immigrant Global Neighborhoods,? Pp. 97-119 in Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World, edited by Ray Hutchinson and Jerome Krase. Elsevier/JAI Press.