Race, SIGNS, and the Body: Towards a Theory of Racial Semiotics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the utility of a racial semiotics, or raciosemiotics, to further explore the ways race, language, and the body co-construct one another via multiscalar signification. It begins with a brief overview of semiotic theory, underscoring contemporary scholars’ focus on context and materiality. Drawing from Fanonian phenomenology and from ethnographic research with Black-identified young people in the United States and Liberia, the chapter discusses how antiblackness, as a transhistorical interpretive frame, compounds the semiotic weight of Black bodies and shapes how individuals in such bodies make meaning with others. Finally, by focusing on the racialized body in the construction of meaning, I suggest that attending closely to young people’s raciosemiotic labor—meaning-making about and through race—can move us closer towards developing a theory of racial semiotics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Language and Race
EditorsH. Samy Alim, Angela Reyes, Paul Kroskrity
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780190845995
ISBN (Print)9780190845995
StatePublished - 2020


  • African diaspora
  • Antiblackness
  • Blackness
  • Language
  • Race
  • Racialization
  • Semiotics
  • The body
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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