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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Terror From the Air

Semiotext(e) is an American independent publisher. It is widely credited for having introduced so-called "French Theory" to North America through its magazine issues and Foreign Agents series. In 2000 the MIT Press began distributing Semiotext(e), taking it over from the anarchist publishing collective Autonomedia. The Semiotext(e) offices are located in Los Angeles.


Semiotext(e) began in 1974 as a journal started by French philosopher Sylvère Lotringer in an effort to bridge radical French theory and the intellectual and art worlds of New York City. The original editorial board included ten people, mostly graduate students at Columbia University where Lotringer teaches, who chipped in fifty dollars apiece to get the journal started. They held their first conference in 1975: the "Schizo-Culture" conference on prisons and madness. Speakers included Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Michel Foucault, and Jean Baudrillard, now all staples of the Semiotext(e) backlist. Out of this conference came their second issue of the journal, which sold out in three weeks. Following issues included Italy: Autonomia; Post-Political Polics, and the infamous Polysexuality. In 1983, Lotringer began the Foreign Agents book series in their iconic 4.5" x 7" black-covered format. They could be read on the subway, a few pages at a time, like the newspaper: their place was in the pockets of spiked leather jackets as much as on the shelves.

In the late 1980s filmmaker and writer Chris Kraus came up with an idea to publish the American equivalent to the Foreign Agents series in writerly terms - non-mainstream American writers who exercise radical subjectivity. Semiotext(e)'s Native Agents series launched with Cookie Mueller's Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black. The Native Agents series went on to publish urgent and visionary fiction and nonfiction by the likes of Kathy Acker, Eileen Myles, Michelle Tea, and Bob Flanagan.

In 2003 Semiotext(e) implemented their more overtly political arm, the Active Agents series These books, which include Amira Hass's Reporting From Ramallah and Alain Joxe's Empire of Disorder, are published quickly in response to urgent issues. Hedi El Kholti joined Semiotexte as co-editor in 2003 introducing a new energy in the press embodied in Semiotext(e)'s recent book, David Wojnarowicz: A Definitive History of Five or Six Year's on the Lower East Side, as well as upcoming titles by controversial French writer Tony Duvert, whose work proposes non-privatized forms of sexuality as cultural conduits.

Since 2005, the three have been joined by associates Andrew Berardini, Nick Zurko, Shannon Durban, Robbie Dewhurst, Max Kim, Justin Cavin, Jared Elms and translators Noura Weddell and Arianna Bove.

The word Semiotext(e) was originally meant as a pun, connecting semiotics to text, adding the "e" to signify the magazine's initial bi-lingual nature. It later came to signify the mostly female writers that Chris Kraus published. With the advent of the internet, it has also become their electronic logo.


  • Interview with Sylvère Lotringer, published in ARTFORUM, issue April 2003 “My '80s: Better Than Life”


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Semiotext(e)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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