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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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Volume 2016, Issue 210


The free slave paradox

Zea Miller
Published Online: 2016-03-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0054


To the extent that “runaway slave” and “free slave” express the same content, yet one is readily understood and the other is not, the difference exposes a cultural blindness to some of the outdated ways in which oppressive language still operates. This article processes the expression “runaway slave” through several semiotic models to examine its structural incoherence and then explores the ways in which it is paradoxically understood, even so, as functions of racist cognitive frames issuing from white investments in the language. By exposing how the expression presents interdisciplinary issues, the article thereby advances an argument against its unexamined use and proposes an alternative.

Keywords: runaway slave; fugitive slave; slavery in the United States of America; semantics; structuralism; cognition


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-03-12

Published in Print: 2016-05-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2016, Issue 210, Pages 57–74, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0054.

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