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Surprise, as Usual: Reflections on Five Months of Fieldwork on Personal Names and Renaming in Delhi

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    Rights statement: © Copeman, J. (2014). Surprise, as Usual: Reflections on Five Months of Fieldwork on Personal Names and Renaming in Delhi. ISRF Bulletin 3

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Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
JournalISRF Bulletin
Publisher Independent Social Research Foundation
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


This research project, which is supported by an Independent Social Research Foundation Early Career
Fellowship with a supplementary grant from the British Academy, analyses the significance of naming and
renaming practices in relation to caste and religion in India. Though frequently stigmatizing, caste names
can be treated inventively: hidden, changed, or subject to revaluation. The project seeks 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? The aim is to
synthesize and reinterpret existing approaches to the naming of persons in India whilst also developing
original ethnographic case-studies focusing on three contested areas: low- and high-caste strategies of
name-changing, Sikh reformist attempts to reinvigorate the religion’s anti-caste sentiments through
particular kinds of naming practices, and secularist, anti-caste activists’ provision of 'secular names' such
as the given name 'Sanketh' (Information) and surname 'No-caste'.

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