Semiotic landscapes at borders: cases from significant American and European "margins"

Objectives and competences

Through the familiarization with case studies coming from different border areas of the world, students will be able to develop critical thinking towards questions of cultural homogeneity and national identities. The interdisciplinary and multidiscipinary approach will allow to reflect on the complexity of cultural and human phenomena across different frontiers. Furthermore, students will be able to put this knowledge into practice through fieldwork experience on the Italian/Slovene border.


Familiarity with basic concepts of the social sciences and humanities, knowledge of notions of “national identity”, “multiculturalism”, “cultural diversity”.


This course will deal with the visual and linguistic practices constituting the so-called Semiotic Landscape of border areas, focusing on meaningful cases along the so-called North/South and West/East divide: United States/Mexico frontier (San Diego and Tijuana), the Northern Aegean Greek/Turkish one (Mytilini and Ayvalik) and the Italian/Slovene one of Gorizia/Nova Gorica, as well as others.
In particular, we will consider the representational dynamics shaping the public space of these border areas and towns, relating them to questions of migration, mobility and multiculturalism in both a historical and contemporary perspective and to issues of identity and diversity in relation to the concept of the nation state.
Through a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary view based on approaches coming from cultural anthropology, sociology, human geography, sociolinguistics (and others), we will investigate the symbolic capital and the patterns of diversity inclusion and exclusion manifest in the materiality of the border and in sites of exchange and encounters such as squares, markets and parks and in written and visual expressions such as Graffiti and murals.
Markers of cultural and linguistic diversity will be treated as significant reminders of “Otherness” and “multiplicity”, which contribute to challenge the hegemonic concepts of “fixedness” and ethnic homogeneity within societies at both sides of the border.
Particular attention will be devoted to the semiotic landscape of the Gorizia/Nova Gorica frontier, through individual and collective fieldwork and research on both the Italian and Slovene part of the urban area.

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding:

• Ability of positioning questions of borders and diversity in a global, comparative perspective.
• Familiarity with discourses on cultural hybridity and transcultural identities.
• Ability of interpreting space as a semiotic resource (also through fieldwork on both sides of the Nova Gorica/Gorizia border).
• Development of critical thinking about the hegemonic discourses on national identity operating in border areas


  • Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow (eds), Semiotic Landscapes. Language, Image, Space, Continuum Publishing, 2010, introductory chapter, pp. 1-41.Catalogue
  • Chiara Brambilla, “Exploring the Critical Potential of the Borderscapes Concept”, in: Geopolitics, 20:1 (2015), pp. 14-20. E-version
  • Elena dell’Agnese, Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary, “Borderscapes: From Border Landscapes to Border Aesthetics”, in: Geopolitics, 20:1 (2015), pp. 4–13 E-version
  • David Newman, “The lines that continue to separate us: borders in our 'borderless' world”, in: Progress in Human Geography, 30: 2 (2006), pp. 143-161. E-version
  • C. Rumford, “Toward a Multiperspectival Study of Borders in “Geopolitics”, 17:4 (2012), pp. 887-902. E-version
  • Michiel Baud, & Willem van Schendel, “Toward a Comparative History of Borderlands”, in: Journal of World History, 8:2 (1997), pp. 211–242. E-version
  • Martin D. Rosen & James Fisher, “Chicano Park and the Chicano Park Murals: Barrio Logan, City of San Diego, California”, in: The Public Historian, 23: 4 (2001), pp. 91–112. E-version
  • Maribel Alvarez, “La Pared Que Habla: A Photo Essay about Art and Graffiti at the Border Fence in Nogales, Sonora”, in: Journal of the Southwest, 50: 3, Fences (2008), pp. 279-304. E-version
  • Ioanna Wagner Tsoni & Anja K. Franck, “Writings on the Wall: Textual Traces of Transit in the Aegean Borderscape”, in: Borders in Globalization Review, 1 (2019) pp- 7-21. E-version
  • Guido Cimadomo, “Spatial Transformations of European Borderlands. A Comparative Study of Gorizia–Nova Gorica and Gibraltar - La Linea de la Concepción”, in: Fabrications, 25:3 (2015), pp. 376-397.
  • Giustina Selvelli, “Od prepustnih meja v regiji Alpe-Jadran do vizije večplastne Evrope”, in: Werner Wintersteiner, Cristina Beretta, Mira Miladinović Zalaznik (ur.), Manifest|o Alpe Adria. Stimmen für eine Europa-Region des Friedens und Wohlstands/ Voci per una regione europea di pace e prosperità/ Glasovi za evropsko regijo miru in blagostanja, Vienna, Löcker Verlag 2020, pp. 212-216. Catalogue
  • Paul A. Nugent, “Border Towns and Cities in Comparative Perspective”, in: Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan (eds) A Companion to Border Studies. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2012, pp. 557-572. Catalogue


Type (examination, oral, coursework, project): Active participation in discussions (20%), Readings of assigned literature (20%), Final essay (5000 words) or other (visual, textual) project related to the border (60%).

Lecturer's references

Konceptualne dileme v razpravah o multikulturalizmu in globalizaciji. Dve domovini/Two Homelands, 2004, no. 19, pp. 107-120.

Ali so geografske meje tudi meje znanosti : zadnje desetletje odpiranju znanosti ne kaže dobro. V: NJATIN, Lela B. (ur.). ZRC SAZU : priložnostno glasilo ob 20-letnici Znanstvenoraziskovalnega centra Slovenske akademije znanosti in umetnosti, 22. februar 2002. Ljubljana: ZRC SAZU, 2002. Str. 6-7, fotogr.

Marina. Pomen kulturno-umetniške dejavnosti med slovenskimi izseljenci - Zahodna Evropa. Dve domovini : razprave o izseljenstvu. [Tiskana izd.]. 2001, št. 14, str. 53-65. ISSN 0353-6777.