While this volume has been in preparation, we have discovered that if you scratch an anthropologist, you are likely to find a paper on names clambering for attention. In the autumn of 1999, ten anthropologists met for two days at Pembroke College, Cambridge, to talk about names and naming. Our institutional affiliations were international and our fieldwork experience spanned many regions across the globe. We asked what a focus on names and naming might bring to current anthropological thinking and we asked how recent developments in anthropology and beyond might shed new light on our understanding of names and naming more generally.
It was an exhilarating experience, as has been the genesis of this book. Seven of the original workshop participants have contributed chapters here. Maurice Bloch was unable to attend, but provided a chapter. Nadia Abu El-Haj and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro felt their individual papers were too close to their own about-to-be-published books to warrant inclusion, although happily Viveiros de Castro was able to provide commentary on Hugh-Jones's paper; Thomas Hansen and Linda Layne contributed chapters.
We have been fascinated, delighted, moved, amused, and not a little awed by the sheer amount of detail waiting for the interested researcher. Suddenly, virtually everything – newspaper articles, websites, asides in historical texts, and academic publications – seems to point in some way to the importance people around the world attach to names.