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GIOVANNI MARRONE

Toxic substances, semiotic forms. Toward a socio- and textual analysis of altered senses

  • Authors: Marrone, G.
  • Publication year: 2007
  • Type: Articolo in rivista

Abstract

Among the directions of contemporary Semiotic research, two should be considered of major importance. The first, in the field of cognitive studies, concerns the research on perception and sensorial faculties and in general the role of the body in building and transforming meaning. The second, in the field of cultural studies, considers Semiotics as a social science, based on what Saussure used to call “the study of the life of signs inside the social life”. These two different directions are apparently in contradiction. Body as well as perception, in fact, can not be considered “natural” or “universal”, in a phenomenological and anthropological perspective of language and meaning. A body is always established inside a social system with its own characteristics and dynamics which are linked to cultural changes in time and space. According to a semiotic viewpoint, a body is always and in any case a social body. The aim of this article is to discuss the relationship between experiences with drugs and musical/visual experiences inside a theoretical framework, which includes all the recent results of semiotic research on socio-cultural configurations of the body. These results, which are the product of a collective research still under way, explore this topic in many directions. First of all, by showing how sensorial alterations caused by drugs are translated into different texts, such as pop songs, video clips and movies. Secondly, by reconstructing the themes and the reasons of all those subcultures (hippy, psychedelic, punk), which have come into being on the basis of an alteration of the senses, achieved through the simultaneous use of music and drugs. Finally, we can also make hypotheses on some formal similarities – and the possible shifts – between music and drug experiences. This allows us to reflect on common terms and behaviors (i.e. the trip) and in general to investigate the two issues more in depth. In short, this article wishes to deal with the phenomenon of drugs, by using the instruments of socio-semiotics, and by providing a perspective which goes beyond that offered by those disciplines, which have traditionally dealt with this issue, such as medicine, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, jurisprudence, political science, economics and sociology, in order to look at forms and motivations. By working on textual outputs and meaningful behaviors, as well as on life experiences and the underlying languages that are embedded in them, socio-semiotics aims at producing a rigorous and critical study of society and contemporary culture at the same time. In the long run this could facilitate the comprehension of them and, perhaps, foster a change.