Victoria Princewill at Granta:
Byung-Chul Han tells us in The Disappearance of Rituals, that ‘symbolic perception, as recognition, is the perception of the permanent’. In a world that often seems to be determined by change, by transient experiences, names are an anomaly. They are stubborn things, pushing back against the relentless march of time. Ages change, job titles, citizenship, but names we carry with us. In defiance of a life in constant motion. When we name newborns, we are trying to locate them in the world by carving out their distinction from others, as absolute immutable entities. Some part of that distinction will follow them through the trajectory of their life. Names endure, names remain.
Yet our names function, first, as words spoken back to us. Our existence is shaped in part by the recognition of others, making the experience of naming a collaborative project. In some West African families, like my own, one can be named for another relative, in recognition of their unique heritage.