Project NAME CHANGE (Phase 2)

Transgressive Practices of Self-naming:
Marking Differences through Free Name Change
in Sweden

From an onomastic perspective, the sub-project studies the self-categorisation people perform
by changing their given names. Being the most important linguistic labels for humans,
given names – alongside other markers like clothing and habitus – indicate social affiliations
and thus make a crucial contribution to human differentiation. As names don't bear any semantics,
they are to a high degree suitable for marking forms of social belonging in terms of
gender, class, age, religion, ethnicity etc. The rare case of free name change and selfnaming
that is subject to our study allows for encoding differences in one's own identity; the
external categorisation through the name given at birth is replaced by the individual alignment
to various social categories. The project aims at examining which categorical affiliations
are highlighted through the act of self-naming when the free change of names is legal and
even promoted by the state. This is the case in Sweden: The Swedish naming law allows an
utmost liberal and comfortable handling of name changes. Contrary to the first project phase,
the new project does not want to analyse the self-chosen names according to a previously
defined cultural difference. Instead, the focus lies on those social affiliations that are made
relevant by the actors themselves, as well as on those affiliations that are made invisible
through the name choice (doing & undoing difference).