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Naming and the reconstruction of female identity in Bette-Obudu

Issue: Vol 13 No. 2-4 (2019) Special Issue: African anthroponyms: Sociolinguistic currents and anthropological reflections

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.37855


This study suggests a theoretical connection between Bette given maiden name at birth, which tends to circumscribe the child’s psyche in the exclusive cast of future wife or mother; and the resultant personal identity of the adult woman in compliance or deviance. Using French feminist psychoanalytical critical theory which perceives sex roles and gender as patriarchal cultural constructs through the agency of language, the study rearticulates Bette-Obudu female names as ‘embodied’ signifiers that may have future identity consequences on the name-bearers in the contemporary world of multi-tasking. Using a purposive sample of 74 maiden names from the five Bette speaking communities, I argue, using qualitative ethnographic analysis, that these manipulative naming practices (re)construct the girl-child’s self-concept and self-image in some future time; finding further that a combination of neo-colonial religions, the 21st-century marriage institution and cultural traditions among Bette people may be contributory to name mutations and the creation of deviance. Significantly, female naming tradition among Bette people tends to ‘pre-fix’ the girl-child along patriarchal designs, thereby making the contemporary Bette woman appear marginal to other concerns of postmodern imperatives.

Author: Liwhu Betiang

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