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Survival by Loss of Identity: The Power of Names among Burundian Refugees in Tanzania

Survival by Loss of Identity: The Power of Names among Burundian Refugees in Tanzania

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Title: Survival by Loss of Identity: The Power of Names among Burundian Refugees in Tanzania
Author: Duchaj, Karen A.
Ntihirageza, Jeanine
Abstract: We investigate Burundian refugee names in Tanzania. The first name, in Kirundi (language of Burundi),
reflects a person’s future or the parents’ life circumstances. Later, Burundians are given a French Christian
name. The original name becomes the surname. Both names identify one as Burundian, supporting the idea
that names are keys to identity maintenance (Alia 2007). We classify the 1972 Burundian refugees into two
categories. Camp refugees stay inside the camps. Returning to Burundi defines their lives. Keeping their
Burundian names allows visibility and unity, to remain a people (Malkki 1995). Meanwhile, town refugees
manage to leave the camps, becoming invisible within Tanzanian society. For them, changing one’s name
eases challenges/barriers, while disconnecting one from his/her past. It is common to change the Christian
name to a Muslim name, leaving the surname. If the surname is too noticeable, the individual may find a
Burundian name that passes for a Tanzanian name. This is a break with the individual’s identity as the
name presented by the parents must be abandoned. We conclude that if there is a need to change the name,
the Christian name is given up first, then the surname, since the latter defines the individual as truly
Burundian.
Subject: Burundian Names in Tanzania
Names among Burundian Refugees
Type: Article
Rights: The following articles are © 2009 with the individual authors. They are made available free of charge from this page as a service to the community under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivative Works license version 3.0. For full details go to http://creativecommons.org.licenses/ny-nd.3.0
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/3962
Published: York University
Citation: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences
ISBN: 978-1-55014-521-2
Date: 2009

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