What’s In A Name?

To live in America, they literally called me an alien.

I’m in Kerala now, where nobody seems to go by their given names. Alice is actually Elizabeth, Rohan is actually Sunny. In practice, everyone actually uses relational names (brother/sister, uncle/aunt). Actually it’s more complicated than that, elder-brother, youngest-sister, fathers-older-sister, mothers-younger-brother. It’s a web. People are defined not on their own, but by their connection to other human beings.

You don’t actually have to know anyone’s name, which is good because you don’t actually know anyone’s name.

In Sri Lanka we also have many names. People will often have seven or more official names, of which one (or none) is randomly used. My parents gave us just two names, but we still break them up and use nicknames.

When I had children, I joked that you’d want a name that fits on an immigration form. But this was a bad joke. This was colonization on the brain. Why should human beings fit into one form? What’s a name, given the multitude of avatars we contain?

We’re supposed to compress the magnificent diversity of human existence for what? So the state can understand us? So it can file us and defile us? So it can know us and say no to us? We’re supposed to sever all of our relational names, but why? So we can have a simpler relationship with Capital, which takes us away from our families?