About the Symposium
The Roman Jakobson Symposium was established to advance the study of language and semiosis (sign processes) in the social sciences. Hosted annually by the Department of Anthropology at Harvard, the symposium emphasizes comparative, empirical research and methodological innovation organized around language, interaction, communication, and media as fundamental and unavoidable problematics in social and political theory.
The symposium is named in honor of the late Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), the Samuel Hazard Cross Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and General Linguistics at Harvard (1949-1967) and one of the greatest linguists and semioticians of the twentieth century. Jakobson’s work had a profound influence on many disciplines. Anthropology in particular has been shaped by Jakobson’s groundbreaking contributions to phonology and morphology, his seminal theory of poetic function, and the conceptual bridges he built between European semiology (in the structuralist tradition of Ferdinand de Saussure) and North American semiotics (in the pragmaticist tradition of Harvard alumnus Charles S. Peirce). This event spotlights the generative potential of semiotic approaches to understanding the pressing social, political, and intellectual questions of our time.
2019 Signs of Race, Racializing Signs
2021-22 Seminars with the Harvard-Yenching Institute Program in Linguistic and Semiotic Anthropology
Further Reading on Jakobson in Anthropology
Caton, Steven. 1987. "Contributions of Roman Jakobson." Annual Review of Anthropology. 16:223–260.
Silverstein, Michael. 2017. "Forty Years of Speaking (of) the Same (Object) Language – Sans le Savoir." Langage et Société 2-3(160–161):93–110.