To change a name, and to obtain a name: From Hirani’s PK to Donald Trump and back again

Lecture given at Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, 1/3/2017. Chaired by Professor Asha Sarangi.

Abstract: This lecture explores instructional functions of (personal) names. Names have a special place in scenes of instruction: children, in learning the names for things, also learn what a name is. However, names can also be given with the express intention of encouraging new understandings, or reconsiderations of positions. Techniques employed to achieve this can include unexpected usage, but also unexpected juxtaposition and intentional production of crises of reference. Cases considered in this lecture include the role of names in the film PK and online algorithms with the capability of substituting one name for another.