Multimodality Talks Series: Ageism, sexism and semiotic representation

Date:  June 10, 2022

Time: 12:00-1:30pm BST

Place: online

Speaker: Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard

University of Birmingham, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

To watch the recorded talk, see here:

About this event:
Semiotic regimes are the ways in which semiotic practices are regulated in specific contexts. They include codification, tradition, expertise, role models and technology. They also apply to semiotic production as well as to semiotic interpretation.

Ageism, as a semiotic regime, is expressed in conflicting discourses: in the media. (TV/magazine ads), in urban spaces, in beauty brand communication and in personal narratives (where people express their different views on getting old). Fundamentally, discourses of ageism intersect with questions of gender and race.

This talk addresses the question of semiotic representation of older women taking into consideration that the vast majority of public discourses that refer to middle-aged and old women tend to support and perpetuate the culturally constructed assumptions that ‘ageing’ is a decline story and has strong negative associations. They also tend to legitimate contemporary bias against older women, and this is done through lifestyle procedural/persuasive discourses.

In order to understand and identify age related stereotyping and the associated issues of gender/age, sexism/ageism, I will examine media reports and public multimodal representations of age, through the lenses of social semiotics and feminist theory.

I will claim that the ageing female body is represented in competing and ambivalent discourses. I will also claim that in post feminist times, ageist and sexist ideologies are powerfully yet covertly present and normalised in public discourses.

Prof. Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of English Language and Linguistics, University of Birmingham, where she taught from 1996 to 2012. She is also Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. She works in the areas of Social Semiotics, Gender Studies, Multimodality and Forensic Linguistics. She has published widely both internationally and in Brazil. Her latest edited book “Innovations and Challenges – Women, Language and Sexism” was published by Routledge, 2020.