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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An echo of silence through the vale of oppression : name, literacy, and memory Chen, Rosa Hong

Abstract

This thesis examines how one’s name and the ways in which that name is employed in various social contexts affects a person’s self-knowing and knowing of the world, focusing specifically on the challenges of literacy acquisition in oppressive nation-states. The work, which employs a narrative methodology, draws upon my experiences of persecution through the Chinese Cultural Revolution, during which time officers of the oppressive regime blacklisted my family name. Being in the stages of early literacy at the time, I came to know my formal identity through glimpses of my name angrily crossed out on blackboards and in other public places. I, along with children like me, was forced to reject my identity in order to fit in the new social order. If, as Norris et al (2005) observe, literacy acquisition "requires some appropriation of the ways-of-being and values of a social group" (p. 779), how do oppressed peoples come to acquire literacy? This work entails an inquiry into the significance of names/naming in relation to three important aspects of knowing: self-image, literacy, and cultural memory. The thesis consists of three primary parts: 1) a general background of the Cultural Revolution in which my family and our experiences of persecution are situated; 2) a discussion of the theoretical implications of name/naming, literacy, identity and cultural memories; 3) and a series of anecdotes that exemplify the inextricable relatedness between name / naming and literacy.

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