CANCELLED - Colloquium Series 2023-24: Luke Fleming

When and Where

Friday, March 15, 2024 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Anthropology Building
19 Ursula Franklin Street, Toronto, ON M5S 2S2


Luke Fleming


"Digital substrates, analog effects: How sign structures scaffold intensities of experience in kinship avoidance"

In the last decade, linguistic anthropologists have increasingly turned to the investigation of the quanta as well as the qualia of social semiosis. This presentation draws on a cross-cultural survey of practices of kinship avoidance in contributing to this conversation. Kinship avoidance relationships are enacted through interaction rituals like name taboos, commensality restrictions, and the avoidance of tactile or even visual contact. I claim that the experiential intensities and analog effects of kinship avoidance importantly depend upon the ways in which these semiotic media are organized into structured sign systems (or ‘kinship registers’) that differentiate and grade kinship categories by degrees of interpersonal restraint. Drawing on a range of case-studies, from Manus honorific pronouns to Turkmen face-covering to Zulu name taboos, I illustrate the cross-culturally convergent properties of these systems of social indexicality and I trace out some of the theoretical implications of these findings for thinking about how cultural structures are linked to modalities and intensities of experience. The paper presents a summary of one of the central arguments of my forthcoming book, On speaking terms: Avoidance registers and the sociolinguistics of kinship, to be published this year by U of T Press.

Register here to attend via zoom.


Contact Information


19 Ursula Franklin Street, Toronto, ON M5S 2S2