Argentina’s Voice of Discourse: Eliseo Verón, 1935-2014

Eliseo VeronEliseo Verón, a Buenos Aires-born sociologist and anthropologist whose work introduced semiotics to Argentina, died of throat cancer in the city of his birth on Tuesday, April 15. He was 78.

Verón, the author of 20 books, was one Argentina’s leading academics, and his passing was headline news in many Spanish-speaking countries. “His book The Social Semiosis became required reading material for careers in communication and journalism from around the country,” noted the news site

Thanks to an early stint at the Collège de France Verón became a disciple of the prominent French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and the Argentinian oversaw the first anthology of Lévi-Strauss in Spanish. But after attending a 1962 seminar led by Roland Barthes, Verón’s interests turned more toward Saussurian semiotics, which influenced his activities for the balance of his career and led him to his own theories of social semiosis and discourse.

“One of Verón’s great skills was that he found it easy to solve complex problems that seemed insoluble,” fellow semiotician José Luis Fernandez was quoted (in Spanish) in a release from the Asociación Argentina de Sociología, which Verón founded.

In his later years he was increasingly vocal politically, and his last interview — in November — centered on an amicus brief he’d filed with Argentina’s Supreme Court over a media regulation law.

In the late 1950s Verón studied sociology and philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires where he earning a degree in philosophy. He  then received the scholarship that allowed him to study with Lévi-Strauss. After several years in France he returned to Argentina and served in the sociology department of his alma mater before directing the Center for Social Research at the Torcuato di Tella Institute for two years in the late 1960s. He taught social psychology and sociology at several other Argentine universities, and won a Guggenheim fellowship for sociology in 1970.

That same year saw Verón start an eight year stint as president of the Argentine Association of Semiotics, and in 1974 along with Oscar Steinberg, Juan Carlos Indart and Oscar Traversa he founded the journal LENGUAjes, which firmly established semiotics in the Argentine academy.

He returned him to France in the mid-70s, and he taught at served at several universities, including the Sorbonne, until he returned to Argentina in 1995 to direct the graduate program in communication sciences at the Universidad Hebrea Argentina Bar Illán. Verón taught at several more institutions before settling at the University of San Andrés, where directed the master’s program in journalism for six year starting 2000. At the time of his death, Verón was emeritus professor at San Andrés.

“Eliseo was an outstanding Argentine intellectual who always maintained his creative and inquisitive spirit,” the rector of San Andres, Carlos Rosenkrantz, said in a statement.

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