Why is naming important?

Walking in Thailand

I’ve been re-reading and re-wondering. Lately my research has made me question my colonial attitudes and wether a sense of place idea is overtly colonial at all. This all led me back to Raffan (1993) who talks about this idea of toponymie or how powerful it is if we name things.

At his point in my research I’m looking at interviewing my teaching partner and myself, both of us are colonial in some aspect, although from different cultures. And in Singapore both of our languages are dominant (even though neither are local). It got me to thinking how important it is to really name a place and according to who?

If naming is important, and naming can establish a sense of place, I guess I wonder who gets to name something, who can change the name, and how do those names gain power. Our colonial aspects here in Singapore have had us change names pretty frequently, and we have lost what we thought were the original names for places (from what I understand). Recently in Singapore, I feel like we have also just started acknowledging the Orang Laut people, which makes me wonder what their names for things are.

Anyway, it’s an old article but, my recent readings brought me back.

Raffan, J. (1993). The Experience of Place: Exploring Land as Teacher. ERIC Online, 16(1), 39-45

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