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5 - Dynamics of Change in Differentiation

from Part II - Semiotics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 June 2019

Susan Gal
Affiliation:
University of Chicago
Judith T. Irvine
Affiliation:
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
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Summary

Axes of differentiation seem stable, but are changed when deployed in situated action for diverse political projects. The chapter illustrates the semiotics of such changes, tracing the metapragmatic label “Yankee” in the United States between 1770 and 1850. Memoirs, travelogues, and historical and literary works provide evidence from this conflictual era. Political opinions, nonreferential indexes, and other expressive forms are also systematically traced, as enregistered parts of axes. Historical changes are illuminated: how an east/west axis was changed to North/South. More important is to specify the general process: axes are changed through successive uptakes in splicing, salience, pivoting. Fractal recursions of axes create cascades of rhematized differentiation and erasures in values, sensibilities, ethics, political opinions, and embodied identities. The chapter ends by showing how alliances and antagonisms are formed around fractal distinctions in social organizations. Fractal distinctions are enacted as conflict or solidarity. Coercive power and the creative power of novel categories and social forms are both apparent in the dynamics of differentiation.

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Chapter
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Signs of Difference
Language and Ideology in Social Life
, pp. 138 - 164
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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