Transracial Identities: The Meaning of Names and the Process of Name Reclamation for Korean American Adoptees


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Abstract

This qualitative study explored the experiences of transracial Korean American adoptees who were given an Anglicized American name at the time of their adoption and have since reclaimed their Korean birth name across some or all contexts. Nineteen participants completed demographic questionnaires and in-depth, semistructured interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using grounded theory methodology. Five selective categories were identified: (a) factors impacting name change, (b) contexts in which Korean name is exercised, (c) impact of name change, (d) shifts in identity, and (e) shifts in sense of self. Results from the interviews highlighted the challenges of experiencing adoptee name microaggressions as a factor in reclaiming one’s Korean birth name, as well as facing resistance from family and friends following the name change. For many, reclaiming one’s birth name was healing, felt more in line with an authentic identity, and was a reflection of personal growth and development. Limitations of the study and implications for future research are discussed.

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