UWO Names Study

“Negotiating Personal Names and Social Identities in Canada”

Everyone has a name. Everyone also has a story about how their own name or someone else’s name has become a source of difficulty, confusion, embarrassment, frustration, or anxiety from having to make a decision about a name. This project analyzes such stories and the experiences that Canadians, including recent immigrants, have with names, as they negotiate social identities. People whose names reflect various linguistic and cultural norms are interviewed about their name-related experiences involving regulations, bureaucracy and social interactions, in London, Montréal, and in the broader Canadian context. Government workers and institutional representatives are also asked about their experiences working with the great diversity of names in the Canadian population. The study identifies problems faced by people whose names do not conform to the established norms of the dominant Anglo-Franco-Canadian society, including forms of exclusion, disadvantage and emotional stress.  With a better understanding of these difficulties, and the institutional practices that contribute to them, the research is expected to generate knowledge that will benefit both individuals and institutional agents, as they deal with the complex social, legal, cultural and political issues surrounding names.

Please contact [Dr. Karen Pennesi- pennesi@uwo.ca] for more information if you are interested in applying to our M.A. or Ph.D. programs in sociocultural or linguistic anthropology and would like to work on this project or another project related to names.

If you are a resident of London or Montréal and you are interested in being interviewed for this project, please contact Dr. Karen Pennesi.

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UWO Names Study

I am also the Vice-President of the Canadian Society for the Study of Names. See our call for papers for the next annual meeting here.