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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2015, Issue 207


The machine or the garden: Semiotics and the American yard

Elizabeth C. Hirschman
Published Online: 2015-07-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0045


Around 10,000 BC, rapid global warming led to the development of agriculture, sedentary life, and the long distance transport of goods, services, and knowledge – the precursors of contemporary civilization. Concurrent with these events arose the utilitarian philosophy that the natural world should be exploited for material advancement and that parcels of land could be privately owned and developed. This practice continues to the present day through individual ownership of houses and their surrounding yards. Interviews with American homeowners can provide semiotic insights into how the land under their direct ownership is viewed. Findings lead along a complex trail of images suggesting that the relationship between humans and nature is deeply conflicted. Tracing this relationship back in time through various philosophical positions regarding nature suggests that humans may not be ideologically committed to environmental preservation.

Keywords: romanticism; utilitarianism; ecology; environmental history; nature


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-07-17

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2015, Issue 207, Pages 369–393, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0045.

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