What’s in a Name: Cultural Naming Practices Around the World
Mentor: Madeleine Sorapure
All over the world the naming of a child for most parents, is not something that is taken lightly. For expecting parents living places outside of their homeland, they might see the naming of a child as an opportunity to connect their child to their heritage. In doing this, parents inadvertently set off a chain reaction in that child’s formation of their cultural identity. A person’s cultural identity is their sense of self in relation to a particular group. Additionally, the Cultural Identity Theory (Collier and Thomas 1988) asserts that a person’s cultural identity is one of the main identities expressed when people interact with each other. This project will specifically examine the way a person’s cultural identity is communicated through their name. I hope to examine different naming practices around the world and to learn the different ways cultural identity is shaped as a result of those naming practices. Do more specific naming traditions result in a stronger connection to culture? How are cultural values reflected in naming traditions? In what ways is our identity shaped by forces completely out of our control? I will use naming practices as a lens into the cultures that they stem from to come to conclusions about the subtle ways people lay claim to their cultural identity when outside their home country. I will interview immigrants on how their name was chosen, and the ways that they feel their name has impacted their sense of connection to their country of origin. I will supplement these interviews with data driven analysis of existing data bases of names. I will present this in the form of a long form data journalism piece including audio, graphics, and video when appropriate.
This project uses the names that ethnic minorities in the United States choose for their children as a lens into larger trends of immigration and acculturation. I analyze these themes through interviews and secondary research as well as accompanying data visualizations.
Visit the website I made for this project.