The purpose of the book was to apply some basic concepts from the disci-
pline of semiotics and the realm of politics (internal and international) to
the study of the “miniature messages” carried by the postage stamps of Latin
America, to include the South Atlantic Islands and (in deference to Argen-
tina and Chile) the South American quadrant of Antarctica. The basic thesis
was that this analysis would provide new insights into the politics, history,
national identity, and culture of the region. By emphasizing these contri-
butions, the book represents an interdisciplinary approach to area studies
focusing on this important part of the world.
As explained in chapter 1, the use of some basic semiotic concepts (such
as Peirce’s typology) provided the tools for a systematic search for the mes-
sages contained in the stamps. Semiotics, especially the theoretical aspects,
can be very detailed and dense, and this work does not claim to make a con-
tribution to the more arcane aspects of semiotic analysis. But it does provide
an example of how semiotics applied to a subject such as postage stamps
can be a useful and systematic tool of analysis. The basic conclusion and
contribution is that stamps deliver numerous semiotic messages, and that
they are useful tools for understanding the culture, politics, and history of a
Chapter 1 also raised two basic questions: is an analysis of Latin American
postage stamps academically valid, and is it popular culture? My response,
as laid out in a general sense in chapter 1, and then more specifically in the
chapters that follow, is yes to both questions. As far as academic validity is
concerned, there is not much literature on the subject, but work such as that
of David Scott on the semiotics of European postage stamps clearly has aca-
demic value, as I hope do some of my articles and conference presentations,
and my extensive use of postage stamps in university courses. The academic
validity of semiotic analysis of postage stamps is reinforced by the increas-
Previous Page Next Page