Politics of naming



Naming is a political act, one that is based on mutual recognition. To put it simply, the names that we give not only express, but also constitute the real. Drawing on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, Jane Braaten has observed however that there are no literal or fully determinate meanings of words and sentences and therefore viable alternatives are always possible (‘Short Life of Meaning’, 176).


In considering the power of language and discourse Baaten has argued that ‘the feminist practice of naming our own experience [subjectivity included] might well be regarded as an emergent [Wittgensteinian] language game’ (187). In doing so she has particularly highlighted Wittgenstein’s exposition of the dynamically social character of meaning arguing that there are powerful nonliteralist components in Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language that might be useful for a feminist radical critique of language. As Baaten has succinctly put it: ‘If Wittgenstein’s concept of language games allows us to contrast actual usage with as yet unrealized language games, it could be useful in articulating the underlying philosophical commitments of the politics of naming’ (181).


Please reference as: Maria Tamboukou (2018) ‘Politics of naming’, https://mariatamboukou.org/revisiting-the-nomadic-subject-2/archives/concepts/politics-of-naming