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Personal Names in Asia

History, Culture and Identity

Edited by Zheng Yangwen & Charles MacDonald

Publication Year: 2009

The world's population negotiates a multiplicity of naming systems. Some are compatible with the "normative" system of the world of passports and identity cards but a great many are not. This is particularly true in Asia, a region with some of the most sophisticated naming devices found anywhere in the world, including nicknames and teknonyms, religious and corporation names, honour and death names, pseudonyms and retirement names, house names and clan names, local and foreign names, official and private names. People across the continent carry multiple names meaningful to different audiences. Some are used only in family relations while others locate individuals in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, caste, class, and nation. The centrality of names to many of the crucial debates and preoccupations of the modern world — identity, hybridity, migration, nationalism, multi-culturalism, globalization — makes it particularly surprising that there has been little systematic comparative exploration of Asian names and naming systems. This path-breaking volume classifies and theorizes the systems underlying naming practices in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia where systems are abundant and fluid. Using historical and socio-anthropological perspectives, the authors of this exceptionally close collaborative effort show the intricate connections between naming systems, notions of personhood and the prevailing ethos of interpersonal relations. They also show how the peoples of Asia are fashioning new types of naming and different ways of identifying themselves to suit the demands of a changing world

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Th e social use of personal names is as close to a cultural universe as one can find — even if, in some cases, that name is avoided as in a teknonym (for example, when someone is, say, identified as “x’s mother’s brother.” In fact, it is hard to imagine social life at all without naming systems for designating or addressing a particular, unique individual. Precisely because...

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pp. xi-xii

We would like to thank Anthony Reid, Director of the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore, for initiating a roundtable on the subject of Asian naming practices on 15 February 2005 and bringing the three of us together for a common goal. We would like to thank ARI for financing and hosting the conference, “Naming Asia...

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pp. 1-18

Most denizens of what passes for the “International Community” presume that there is a normative global system, comprising a family name and one or more given names. Most countries and international organizations require new members to fill out a form on that basis. We know that important national systems in Asia list the family name first, and those...

Part I: The Long View

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Chapter 1: Family Names in Southeast Asian History

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pp. 21-36

Less than a century ago it was common to imagine that the adoption of inherited family names or surnames was a necessary stage in civilization. Did not the adoption of family names in Europe broadly coincide with the move out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance?1 The westernizing King who imposed family names in Thailand in 1913 insisted, “Now we...

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Chapter 2: Looking for Claveria’s Children: Church, State, Power, and the Individual in Philippine Naming Systems1 during the Late Nineteenth Century

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pp. 37-51

On 21 November 1849, Spanish Governor-General to the Philippines Narciso Claveria issued a decree that a catalogue of family names should be compiled for Filipinos to adopt. The aim of the decree was to put administrative order in the Philippine naming system, utilizing Spanish surnames, as well as indigenous words related to things like plants, animals...

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Chapter 3: From 居正 Live Righteously and 小蘭 Small Orchid to 建華 Construct China : A Systematic Enquiry into Chinese Naming Practices

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pp. 52-76

Chinese people live and communicate with multiple names. They use different types of names to identify themselves depending on where they are and to whom they speak. In other words, each type of name functions in a different sphere of life or has a different audience as the following Table 1 shows...

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Chapter 4: Toward a Classification of Naming Systems in Insular Southeast Asia

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pp. 77-98

My general aim in this paper is twofold. I would like first to show how formal properties of naming systems are determined, or at least constrained, by cultural and social factors. Second, I would like to propose the beginning of a typology of naming systems for Southeast Asia. But, before doing so it is necessary to raise a number of theoretical points and...

Part II: “Class A”: Simple Egalitarian Societies

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Chapter 5: Teknonymy, Name-Avoidance, Solidarity, and Individuation among the Bentian of Indonesian Borneo

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pp. 101-127

Th is chapter analyzes the sociological importance of teknonymy and what I call pseudo-teknonymy among the Bentian, a small Dayak group of Indonesian Borneo.1 In conjunction with this analysis, I also discuss other forms of address and reference in this society, paying particular attention to the literature on teknonymy and descriptions of name-avoidance...

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Chapter 6: The Karen Naming System: Identity and Sociocultural Orientations1

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pp. 128-149

The Karen is an ethno-linguistic group found in Thailand and Burma. They have been estimated to number 240,000 in Thailand and perhaps up to 2.4 million in Burma.2 Karen studies, in their most general sense — ethnological, anthropological, historical, and plainly descriptive — have a long history, but to the best of my knowledge, there has been no...

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Chapter 7: Th e Autonomy of Naming: Kinship, Power, and Ethnonymy in the Wa Lands of the Southeast Asia-China Frontier

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pp. 150-172

This paper concerns the naming system of the Wa, a Mon-Khmer speaking people about a million strong who live between Burma and China. It also discusses recent Chinese transformations of Wa naming practices, considered in the context of the unequal historical relations between the Chinese center and indigenous peoples on China’s periphery...

Part III: “Class B”: Competitive Societies

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Chapter 8: Personal Names and Changing Modes of Inscribing Identity in Sumba, Eastern Indonesia: “Bloody Thursday” in Linguistic and Social Contexts

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pp. 175-198

On the morning of 29 October 1998, five months after the fall of President Suharto from power in Indonesia, more than 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the Regency Office in Waikabubak, West Sumba, in Nusa Tenggara Timur, eastern Indonesia. Carrying a banner inscribed with phrases like “Long live Reformasi!” [reform] and “Regent Malo must...

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Chapter 9: Who is Your Name?” Naming Paiwan Identities in Contemporary Taiwan

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pp. 199-223

Anthropological studies of names (and terms of address) have been shaped by different theoretical frameworks over time, ranging from evolutionary, functionalist, structuralist, and psychological approaches to symbolic approaches. 1 Geertz’s discussion on names and titles is more or less derived from the Maussian-Leenhardt position which assumes that people are...

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Chapter 10: On Sense and Reference in Eastern Indonesian Personal Names: Finding Space for a Sociology of Naming

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pp. 224-242

Charles Macdonald (1999: 108) has written of necronyms among the Penan of Borneo that while Needham (1954a, 1971) considers them to be names, one could think it more correct to interpret them as titles. Many anthropologists over the decades have noted that the personal names of a given peoples are more like titles than proper names (see Barnes 1982: 211...

Part IV: “Class C”: Complex Centralized Societies

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Chapter 11: Names and Name Changing in Early Modern Kyoto, Japan

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pp. 245-261

In pre-modern Japan an individual could use a variety of names to identify himself in various ways: personal names, surnames, house names, retirement names, and death names are commonly found in pre-modern documents. Surnames could be clan names, or branches of clans named for the location where the founder lived when he established the branch...

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Chapter 12: Personal Identity Complex and Name Changes among the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka

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pp. 262-287

Th e use of names among the Sinhalese as markers of personal identity has a historic basis in caste. Today, names are still important among the Sinhalese as indicators of the caste of a person, although this no longer applies to all names and castes as much as it did in traditional times.1 At present, traditional “high-caste” names are preferred, and names indicating “lowcaste"...

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Chapter 13: Naming and Chinese Muslim Identities: Boundary-making, Negotiation, and Hybridity in Malaysia1

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pp. 288-304

Chinese Muslims are an intermediate minority community in Malaysia. According to the latest census, there are only 57,000 Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, which is 0.25 per cent of the country’s total population, 0.41 per cent of the total Muslim population, and 1 per cent of the total Chinese population. In Malaysia, Malays are defined as Muslims according...


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pp. 305-323


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pp. 324-327


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pp. 328-340

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695811
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971693800

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: New