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Symbolic Capitals: Visual Discourse and Intercultural Exchan

Symbolic Capitals: Visual Discourse and Intercultural Exchange in the European Capital of Culture Scheme
Giorgia Aiello and Crispin Thurlow
Department of Communication, University of Washington, Seattle,WA, USA
In multilingual Europe, visual discourse may function as a cross-culturally strategicform of communication, thanks in part to its perceptual and iconic availability. In thisregard, we offer a social semiotic 美国留学生论文critique of a range of visual resources deployed inthe official promotional texts of 30 of the 43 cities either nominated or competing forthe title of European Capital of Culture between 2005 and 2011. In considering thepolitical/cultural/economic ideologies that underpin the production of a supposedlypan-European identity, we also show how these branding exercises manage local/global tensions by exploiting the intercultural meaning potentials of visual discourse.Nel contesto multilingue dell’Europa, il discorso visivo puo` funzionare come unaforma strategica di comunicazione crossculturale, grazie alla sua relativa immediatezzaa livello percettivo e iconico. In questo articolo, offriamo un’analisi di tiposemiotico sociale in relazione a una gamma di risorse visive ricorrenti nei materiali
promozionali ufficiali di trenta citta` nominate o in gara per il titolo di CapitaleEuropea della Cultura fra il 2005 e il 2011. Nel considerare le ideologie politiche,
economiche e culturali che sottendono la produzione di una presunta identita` paneuropea,mostriamo anche come queste pratiche di ‘branding’ gestiscono la tensionefra identita` locali e globali per mezzo dei potenziali di significato interculturaliofferti dal discorso visivo.
doi: 10.2167/laic234.0
Keywords: visual discourse, social semiotics, intercultural exchange,European identity
You are not necessarily a European just because you happen to be bornor to live in a city marked on the political map of Europe. But youmay be European even if you’ve never been to any of those cities.
(Bauman, 2004: 5)1
Although it might seem out of place in a journal otherwise devoted tolanguage/s, we see two good reasons why the study of visual discourse is animportant consideration for linguists. First of all, no semiotic mode exists inisolation of other meaning-making practices. Language is only ever made trulymeaningful and/or understandable in the context of paralinguistic and othernonverbal codes; in fact, in many instances written and spoken language arethemselves the contextual ‘background’. Certainly, as Kress and van Leeuwen(2001: 26) comment, ‘In the era of multimodality semiotic modes other thanlanguage are treated as fully capable of serving for representation and forcommunication.’ In addition, so much in the way of intercultural exchangesimply occurs outside of language. By this we mean in no way to diminish thepower and politics of language/s in intercultural communication  we toorecognise how intercultural scholarship has for too long problematicallyassumed English to be the de facto medium of intercultural encounter.Nonetheless, many of the means by which intercultural communication takesplace are often material, affective and, of course, visual. Therefore, we are herelooking to contribute a different but complementary perspective for scholarscommitted to an interdisciplinary understanding of the interplay betweenlanguage and intercultural communication.Visual Discourse and the ‘Economies’ of Europe[I]n so far as identities depend on what they are not, they implicitlyaffirm the importance of what is outside them  which often thenreturns to trouble and unsettle them from the inside. Nothing could bemore true of Europe, which has constantly, at different times, in differentways, and in relation to different ‘others’, tried to establish what it was its identity  by symbolically marking its difference from ‘them’. Eachtime, far from producing a stable and settled identity, Europe has had tore-imagine or re-present itself differently. We are at another suchmoment again, now. (Hall, 2003: 38)

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