Remembering Eliseo Veron

By Gastón Cingolani.

Eliseo Verón (1935-2014) was an Argentinian social scientist, and probably the most important
semiotician that Argentina has given, with a huge influence in Latin America and some
European centers. His work constituted an invaluable contribution to the Social Sciences.

His work can be divided into three stages based on epistemological perspectives. Initially his
work articulated issues of psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, and sociology, with a special
interest in phenomenology (until the early 1960s). After graduation in Philosophy at the
University of Buenos Aires in the late 1950s, that interest led him to work at the Laboratory of
Social Anthropology under the supervision of C. Lévi-Strauss, in 1961-1962. His career took
place in Argentina (from 1965 to 1971 and then from 1996 to 2014) and France (from 1971 to
1996), with a brief period in the United States (Palo Alto, California). In a second stage (1960-
1990), upon encountering the novel French structuralist semiology, he integrated knowledge
of linguistics, especially the Theory of Enunciation by A. Culioli and the Semiology of cinema by
Ch. Metz, and later on Peirce’s Semiotic Theory. Since then, he has maintained his interest in
Semiotics as a space for the integration of knowledge within the framework of the Social

Eliseo Veron

Due to his interest in the relationship between communication and the social production of
meaning, in the mid-1960s he was already adding to experiment with inquiries about Mass
Media. This ability to integrate aspects, perspectives and even intellectual traditions that were
strange to each other, did not make things easier for him in academic life, neither in France
nor in Argentina. During a World Congress of Semiotics, an important semiotician reproached
him for his tendence towards epistemological integration: “you cannot mix everything”.
Luckily, Verón kept going.

His curiosity led him in the last two decades to also integrate aspects of cognitive science,
paleoanthropology and the N. Luhmann’s sociological theory. His research interest throughout
his career revolved around communication –a name he himself tried to avoid, based on
hypotheses that took into account the complexity of meaning processes–, with special
attention to the body and in the mediatizations. On these two objects, body and media, he
developed great approaching research on their ways of articulating, not opposing them as
devices of parallel universes but, on the contrary, as materials and processes in co-

Since 1980s, Verón has been a consultant for the business world, as well as for State
organizations and for politicians, too. That tendency and willingness to integrate knowledge
was fundamental in the combination of academic research and private consulting activities.
During this stage, Verón developed applied semiotics instruments that were very useful for

The Reading Contract methodology, based on enunciative operations, was used for market
research for print media, women’s magazines, and schoolbooks, and still is. The systemic and non-representationalist understanding of the mass media was the basis for the methodology
of discursive analysis of the Construction of the event methodology. He also applied
enunciative operations in the analysis of political discourse, whose greatest innovation was in
the unprecedented analysis of the audiovisual mediatization of electoral campaigns and
government speeches, with the notion of Mise-en-scène (staging). For research on brand
positioning, institutional image and public awareness and advertising campaigns (AIDS,
alcoholism, infant feeding) he produced Peircean-based instruments, such as the Semiotic Grid
or the Triadic Topic. In all cases, the notion of Discourse was central to their methodologies.
This notion was not built as a derivation or extension of the objects of Linguistics but based on
the conceptualization of meaning as understood by Peircean Semiotics, that is, triadic,
dynamic, situated and with attention to its multiple material configurations. He introduced
that theory in his Doctoral Thesis (1985) –which was published as his most important book: La
Sémiosis Sociale
(1988). With the results of those investigations, he has significantly expanded
and improved his theories and models of academic work, which are still valid due to their
productivity and efficiency.

He devoted his last years to the elaboration of a theory of mediatization, locating its origin in a
long-term process of the history, long before the so-called modern media, with a semio-
anthropological perspective. In his last book, La semiosis social, 2 (2013) he dedicates two
thirds of the pages to those investigations, from which he elaborates an integrative theory of
the complex social processes to give meaning to human life, both individual and collective.

Gastón Cingolani 

Gastón Cingolani
Universidad Nacional de las Artes (Argentina)

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