Social Anthropology
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Renaming

Caste, Religion and Social Mobility in India

Jacob Copeman

 

This research project, which is supported by the Independent Social Research Foundation and the British Academy, analyzes the significance of naming and renaming practices in respect of caste and religion in India. Though frequently stigmatizing, caste names can be treated inventively: hidden, changed, or subject to revaluation. The project aims to explore historical strategies of naming and renaming whilst also bringing the study squarely into the present: what can naming strategies tell us about Indian society in a time of expedited social transition? This project seeks to synthesize and reinterpret existing approaches to the naming of persons in India whilst also developing original case-studies focusing on low- and high-caste strategies of name-changing, Sikh reformist attempts to reinvigorate the religion’s anti-caste sentiments through novel naming policies, and secularist, anti-caste activists’ provision of 'secular names' such as the given name 'Sanketh' (Information) and surname 'No-caste'.