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Covenantal trust and semioethics: A reflection on interpersonal and intercultural summoning

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From the journal Semiotica


The article proposes a reflection on cultural sign production in social contexts dominated by the socially generalized fear of the unknown other and the obsession for vulnerability avoidance. This phenomenon has been reflected in the generalized tendency of reliance upon contractual trust, where the coherence of the signs legitimating a trustful relationship is maintained by external agencies backed by authoritative forums (e.g., religious, legal, political) and sanctioned by well-defined rewards and punishments. In contrast with the contractual model of trust, I propose a different model, covenantal trust. Taking as a point of departure Levinas’s phenomenological interpretation of the responsible self-opening toward the “sign of the giving of signs” which involves covenantal elements, I advance toward proposing a more active involvement of the participants in the process of joint production of signs. This dynamic involvement is made possible thanks to essential elements of the covenant, such as summoning and response. The covenantal approach aims at proposing a semioethical solution to the social challenges emerging from frustrations of members of both marginal and external communities for being treated distrustfully.

Corresponding author: Ionut Untea, Southeast University, Nanjing, China, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2020-10-19
Published in Print: 2020-12-16

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