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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Naming a New Self: Identity Elasticity and Self-Definition in Voluntary Name Changes

  • Author(s): Emmelhainz, Celia
  • et al.

This article considers how personal name changes are situated within their sociological context in the United States. Reviewing both popular and scholarly texts on names and name changes, I draw on recent work on identity and narrative by Oriana to argue that voluntary personal name changes are made in relation to a sense of narrative elasticity oridentity elasticity, and act symbolically to make a shifting identity or self-narrative manifest in the social context. Drawing out these themes through an exploration of name changes for ethnic self-definition or religious purposes, I conclude with a reflection on the unstable social balance between an individual’s interest in self-expression and society’s priority on the stable identification of persons within a given social sphere.

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