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

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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

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Volume 2015, Issue 207


Colonial bodies: Slavery, wage-slavery, and the representation of race

Adam A. Ferguson
Published Online: 2015-07-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0040


C. L. R. James’ text The Black Jacobins opens new avenues of inquiry with respect to the Haitian Revolution, both from the perspective of a traditional Marxist reading of labor relations, as well as the perspective of the post-colonial subject. In a similar frame, Angelo Herndon’s 1937 text Let Me Live theorizes race relations and economic relations within the context of American slavery, which had been abolished some seventy years prior. This essay will claim that James’ text, as an historical document in postcolonial studies, retheorizes the position of the black subject in contrast to the traditionalist conception of “History”; and furthermore, that Herndon’s imprisonment was a direct result of his challenge to that same culture and the maintenance of white-centered hegemony. In context, The Black Jacobins represents both a deconstruction of a Western “historical” project, as well as a critique of the contemporary imperialist and post-imperialist culture of globalizing trans-national capitalism. Let Me Live, on the other hand, critiques the power structures that systematically oppress black subjectivities on economic, social, political, and cultural fronts. These texts, and their interpretation, will provide a framework for understanding the colonized black subject as the signified in an oppressive semiosis of race relations.

Keywords: C. L. R. James; race; postcolonial studies; Marxism; Angelo Herndon; textual criticism


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-07-15

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2015, Issue 207, Pages 539–550, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0040.

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