Sustainable Religions in Contemporary Cities: A Semiotic Approach

By Massimo Leone.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Semiotics is the discipline that studies signification and communication. The ambition of contemporary semiotics is to develop an analysis of cultures. The concept of semiosphere is central to such ambition, also in socio- and ethno- semiotics, two branches of general semiotics that deal with patterns of social behaviour considered as texts. Modern ecology has exerted a great influence on the current semiotics of culture. The concept of sustainability, typical of the ecological discourse, can be declined also in semiotic terms. In general, sustainability can be defined as the property of an evolving system that is able to keep its identity in relation to the limitedness of its resources. There is scepticism on the possibility of assessing the sustainability of cultures: a romantic idea of signification and communication, radical cultural relativism, and a perception of culture based on naïve experience of verbal language are mainly responsible for such scepticism. Yet, semiotic resources of cultures are limited too: the expressive plan of signification, social articulations of both expression and content levels of signs, as well as communication codes, channels, and the number and cognitive abilities of receivers are all intrinsically limited semiotic resources. Therefore, cultures too can be judged as more or less sustainable in relation to the identity of a certain semiosphere. The cultural semiotics of religions adopts this theoretical framework to study religions and assess their sustainability. Many signs show that competition among religions for limited semiotic resources within the semiosphere of contemporary Italian cities is increasing, bringing about more and more occasions for social tension and conflict. The cultural semiotics of religions must therefore develop new conceptual instruments in order to understand this trend and, possibly, re-engineer it in order to preserve the identity of the European semiosphere, based on peaceful coexistence among confessions.

Keywords: Religion, Sustainability, Conflict, Cities, Semiotics

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.47-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.166MB).

Prof. Massimo Leone

Research Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Torino, Turin, Italy

Massimo Leone is Research Professor of Semiotics and Cultural Semiotics at the Department of Philosophy, University of Torino, Italy. He graduated in Communication Studies from the University of Siena, and holds a DEA in History and Semiotics of Texts and Documents from Paris VII, an MPhil in Word and Image Studies from Trinity College Dublin, a PhD in Religious Studies from the Sorbonne, a PhD in Art History from the University of Fribourg (CH). He was Fulbright visiting Professor at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley (USA) and has been appointed Endeavour Research Professor at the University of Monash, Melbourne (AU). His work focuses on the role of religion in contemporary cultures. Massimo Leone has authored two books and more than 100 papers in semiotics and religious studies. He has lectured in Africa, Asia, Europe, and USA.

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