How does language produce "meaning" and when does language "slip" and/or "fail"? Why do certain words and images affect, attract, or repel entire populations and leave others indifferent? When does language create difference and become an instrument of power? What ideological functions does it serve in colonial and neocolonial contexts? We will address these questions by examining classical and contemporary debates and perspectives on semiotics-the study of signs and symbols as elements of language and communication-as well as globally relevant political phenomena that demonstrate both the uniting and divisive nature of linguistic (and visual) expression. We will not only examine theories of meaning production derived from literary studies, media studies, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and postcolonial studies but also apply these approaches to analyze semiotically charged contemporary phenomena such as postcolonial bilingualism, "accent training" in multinational call centers, the Danish cartoon controversy, and the burqa ban in France.