Kristian Bankov

FOURTH International Conference on Semiotics and Visual Communication 2020


Kristian Bankov

Kristian Bankov,
New Bulgarian University,
Sichuan University

Kristian Bankov (b. 1970) is a visiting professor at Sichuan University, Institute of Semiotics and Media Studies and full professor in Semiotics at New Bulgarian University and Director of the Southeast European Center for Semiotic Studies. His interests in semiotics started during the early nineties when he was studying in Bologna, following the courses of Umberto Eco. In the last several years, his major interests are toward semiotics of the money sign, new media and digital culture. He has written four books among which Intellectual Effort and Linguistic Work: Semiotic and Hermeneutic Aspects of the Philosophy of Bergson (2000) and Konsumativnoto obshtestvo [The Consumer Society] (2009) and numerous articles in Bulgarian, English, and Italian; he is founder of the journal Digital Age in Semiotics and Communication, and co-editor (with Paul Cobley) of the series Semiotics and Its Masters (2017); since 2006 he has directed the organization of the international Early-Fall School of Semiotics (EFSS); in 2014 he was elected as the Secretary General of the International Association for Semiotic Studies. Email:

Populism, Memes and the Semiotic Paradox of the Myth “джендър“

The Bulgarian Constitutional Court voted on Friday 27 July 2018 and declared the Istanbul Convention (IC) unconstitutional. This decision was taken after several months of fierce public debate in Bulgaria and a creation of a myth. The debate was overwhelmed by the populist position rejecting this convention. As a result the word “gender”, literally transcribed in Cyrillic letters (джендър) and having no direct translation in Bulgarian, not only became a neologism with strongly offensive connotations towards LGBT community, but also passed two stages of semiotic transformation according the Barthesean model of language/myth. The populist position in this debate, which won the majority population support, was endorsed by an impressive variety of rhetorical means, many of which visual memes. After outlining the context, I share some reflections on important theoretical differences between oral communications and written text, then I propose a diachronic mirror model showing alphabet evolution to reach the domesticated mind phase (Goody 1977), as well as the reverse process just after the Internet advent, with creative undomestication of mind from a simplified online writing through emoticons and emojis, to GIFs and Internet memes. Some characteristics of the so-called “post-truth era” are seen as a consequence of this mechanism. I’ll illustrate the point with concrete cases from the above-mentioned debate, using as an object of analysis many recorded fights on social media, blogs and online journals and magazines, where various political, social and individual ideologies are aggressively expressed by this new oral/written style of communication. I outline eight major themes, and then illustrate them with the creative visualization of some of the codes that express them.

Keywords: myth, gender, populism, memes, post-truth era