Alena Drieschova, "Peirce’s Semeiotics: A Methodology for Bridging the Material-Ideational Divide in IR Scholarship", November 2014

IR has made important theoretical inroads with concepts such as practices, or artefacts, which transcend the division between material and ideational accounts of social reality. Many scholars have found that these integrated material-ideational approaches also require new methodological tools. This paper proposes Peirce's semeiotics as one way to unpack how practices and artefacts are ideational and simultaneously material. Peircean semeiotics is a semeiotics of materialism, which creates room for material constitution and allows us to analyse practices and artefacts as signs that can partly communicate meaning to an audience directly, without the need for background knowledge or discursive intervention, because they can signify by resembling the object they represent and/or by being causally connected to it. Peircean semeiotics thus provides a way to ground IR's macro-phenomena in visible occurrences. Moreover, given that practices and artefacts are not only signs, but also elements in the material world, and hence subject to material constraints and serving functional purposes, they do not always communicate by intent. Peircean semeiotics thus provides an avenue to analyse unintentional constitutive, yet non-deterministic change. I will illustrate the use of Peircean semeiotics on Branch's analysis of the effects of mapping on the emergence of the territorial state.