On the surface, naming is simply a way to classify people and their environments. The premise of this study is that it is much more - a form of social control, a political activity, and a key to identity maintenance and transformation. Governments legislate and regulate naming; people fight to take, keep, or change their names. A name change can indicate subjugation or liberation, depending on the circumstances. But it always signifies a change in power relations. Since the late 1970s, the author has looked at naming and renaming, cross-culturally and internationally, with particular attention to the effects of colonisation and liberation. The experience of Inuit in Canada is an example of both. Colonisation is only part of the Nunavut experience. Contrary to the dire predictions of cultural gecide theorists, Inuit culture - particularly traditional naming - has remained extremely strong, and is in the midst of a renaissance. Here is a ground-breaking study by the founder of the discipline of political omastics.
Valerie Alia is Professor of Ethics and Identity at Leeds Metropolitan University and a Senior Associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University. An award-winning scholar, journalist, photographer and poet, she was the inaugural Distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University and is Co-Director of Research and a member of the Executive Group of the international, UK-based Institute of Communication Ethics and a member of the editorial board of Ethical Space: the international journal of communication ethics. She has directed research projects on cross-cultural communication and media ethics and was consultant to Canada's Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, Yukon Women's Directorate and the Nation of Immigrants Project. She is a founding member of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association and the International Council of Onomastic Scientists.