The Power of Labels: The Meaning and Use of Names for Identities and Conditions

Name of applicant

Katrine Kehlet Bechsgaard


Postdoctoral Fellow


University of California, Berkeley


DKK 1,273,650



Type of grant

Reintegration Fellowships


What are the societal and social causes and effects of the ways in which minority identities and conditions are named? This is the question that the project seeks to answer. I will study official and unofficial labels used for various identities and conditions based on for example ethnicity, sexuality, and mental conditions, such as nydansker, transkønnet, and autist, in order to gain knowledge of developments, perceptions, patterns, and phases of label use.


Throughout time, identities and conditions have changed both names and connotations. Danish outdated examples include kejthåndet, fruentimmer, fremmedarbejder, homofil and DAMP-barn. Currently, there is a massive focus on naming and labeling of identities and conditions in the public debate in the Western world, and we need better understandings of the causes and effects of attaching labels to various groups in society as well as how labels and attitudes towards them change over time.


The project will get to the core of the nature of naming minority groups and look for developments and patterns in the ways in which these labels have been used and perceived over the past three decades. To track recent developments in which labels are used, and how they are used, I will collect data from Danish newspapers from the past three decades as well as do in-depth interviews with individuals belonging to minority groups.

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