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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.509

CiteScore 2018: 0.23

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.232
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.478

Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2011, Issue 187



Kathryn Staiano-Ross
Published Online: 2011-09-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.065


Disease is never truly a thing, but always an event. It is polysemic, multilayered, historically full, and dynamic. It is constructed over time and encumbered with interpretants according to the needs and preconceptions of those who argue they search only for the truth. The act of quarantining an individual or a community is an expression of governmental power, equal in its effect and the strength of its narrative to the government's authority to institutionalize the mentally ill, deprive criminals of their liberty, and draft individuals to serve in the armed forces. Power flows from and accrues to those who have been granted the right to identify and group those bodily “signs” that designate someone as dangerous. The public will likely be faced many times with a potentially fatal and infectious disease that requires that we identify and isolate those considered dangerous; we will once again face the ethical dilemma of how to choose between individual rights and the public's safety. Who is to be isolated from the balance of society, for what period of time, and under what conditions, may depend more on the individual's social, economic, and political status and categorization as “other” than upon his/her actual threat to the public's health.

Keywords:: biocultural semiotics; quarantine; infectious diseases; tuberculosis; HIV; leprosy

About the article

Published Online: 2011-09-29

Published in Print: 2011-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2011, Issue 187, Pages 83–104, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.065.

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