Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Designing Names: Requisite Identity Labour for Migrants' Be(long)ing in Ontario

Document type Thesis
Author Dechief, Diane Yvonne
Degree Ph.D., Faculty of Information
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2015
Pages 294 pages


This dissertation responds to the question of why people who immigrate to Ontario, Canada frequently choose to use their personal names in altered forms. Between May and December 2010, I engaged in semi-structured interviews with twenty-three people who, while living in Ontario, experienced name challenges ranging from persistent, repetitive misspellings and mispronunciations of their original names to cases of significant name alterations on residency documents, and even to situations of exclusion and discrimination. Drawing on critical perspectives from literature on identity and performativity, science and technology studies, race and immigration, affect, and onomastics (the study of names), I establish that name challenges are a form of "identity labour" required of many people who immigrate to Ontario. I also describe how individuals' identity labour changes over time. In response to name challenges, and the need to balance between their sometimes-simultaneous audiences, participants design their names for life in Ontario--by deciding which audiences to privilege, they choose where they want to belong, and how their names should be.