Theorizing the Restlessness of Events

Robin Wagner‐Pacifici
2010 American Journal of Sociology  
This article offers a theoretical and methodological system for a sociological analysis of the restless nature of historical events. This system, political semiosis, is able to identify and assess the performative speech acts, the demonstrative orientational specifications, and the mimetic representations required to advance historical transformations. The features of political semiosis structure the flow of historical events by managing the specific media and generic forms that are the
more » ... hat are the vehicles through which events take shape. Political semiosis provides a method for analyzing both the circulation and the materialization of events. The exemplary case of September 11 illuminates this approach's capabilities. Everything as it moves, now and then, here and there, makes stops. The bird as it flies stops in one place to make its nest, and in another to rest in its flight. A man when he goes forth stops when he wills. So the god has stopped. The sun, which is so bright and beautiful, is one place where he has stopped. The moon, the stars, the winds, he has been with. The trees, the animals, are all where he has stopped, and the Indian thinks of these places and sends his prayers there to reach the place where the god has stopped and win help and a blessing. (Quoted in Lévi-Strauss 1963, p. 98) PROLOGUE The 21st century has had a turbulent beginning. For the United States, the inaugural decade of this century has brought crises of national security, 1 I wish to thank the following individuals and the AJS reviewers for helpful comments and criticisms on previous versions of this article:
doi:10.1086/651299 fatcat:zwgodb3epreydo6tk6qqhhijxi