Self-naming and Hetero-naming Strategies: from Appropriation to Reconfiguration

  • Christele Fraïssé Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France – Laboratoire de Psychologie, Cognition, Comportement, Communication.
Keywords: self-naming, hetero-naming, hegemonic social representations, homosexuality, trans identities


The names imposed on or chosen by communities provide an insight into thecfunctioning and hierarchical structure of societies. These processes will becexamined by thinking first about the relationships between how groups arecnamed (hetero-naming) and how they name themselves (self-naming) basedcon sociohistorical context, and the theory of social representation (Moscovici, 1976). We will first expose the connection between the activity of naming and the activity of representation, then we shall focus on two examples of heteronaming which have their origins in medical discourse: “homosexuality” and “transsexuality”. The hetero-imposed name “homosexuality” is reappropriated as self-naming within a community of fate. This process allows the development of a collective identity and social representation with the aim of enhancing and transforming it into an “emblem-name” (Moscovici, 1999). The term transsexuality is a hetero-naming largely rejected by those to whom it is applied and, then, who self-name using other terms. This process is also motivated by a desire to enhance and reconfigure the balance of power, i.e. to make the transition from “stigma-name” to “emblem-name” (Moscovici, 1999). Thus, hetero-naming circumscribes spaces of representation and is  imposed on individuals as a means of acting on their lives from a position of dominance. However, it is also a part of a dynamic of relationships between different actors, revealing processes of challenge, appropriation and transformation of names. That’s why it seems important to us to question the ethical position which we adopt as researchers and practitioners.

Author Biography

Christele Fraïssé, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France – Laboratoire de Psychologie, Cognition, Comportement, Communication.

CHRISTELE FRAÏSSE teaches social psychology in graduate and undergraduate degrees in Psychology and in an online master in Gender Studies. Her research is based on social representation theory and focuses on violence and discriminations against LGBTQI+ people. She studied homophobia through the analysis of letters sent to a French mayor who celebrated a marriage between two men as it was still forbidden in France. She also works on the social representations of homoparental families, of homosexuality and internalized homophobia. She took part in a national French survey about gendered violence (VIRAGE, INED, 2015) to analyse violence against LGB students and trans people.