Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 199–207 | Cite as

Names and naming: Instances from the ORU-IGBO

  • Sabine Jell-Bahlsen


People have many names. But, changing one's name is no small thing. It can signify a major step in life or an embarrassing story, as in the last case.

A person has a complex individual identity. His collective identity is clear from the moment he is conceived. He is one with a body of people, his kinsmen, who share one common ancestor and through him access to land and resources. The continuation of this group and its name is perpetuated through paternal descent.

Kingroup membership ensures a person's place in life, his right to exist, eat, live and enjoy. But, who is he, apart from being a kinsman? Which kinsman is he? How are people going to interact with him? His individual identity will become clear through time. He is a re-incarnation of ancestor “x”. The circumstances of his birth were such. He behaves like this. He has these personal traits. This has happened to him. He has achieved that. There is no permanent role attached to an individual. He is neither bound to class nor caste. He is dynamic and changes constantly. His life is one of achievement, constant striving and upward mobility till death — when it all begins again. His name signals his state of being in time and existence.


Personal Trait Common Ancestor Major Step Individual Identity Collective Identity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sabine Jell-Bahlsen

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