German reunification and the politics of street names: The case of East Berlin

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Commemorative street names conflate the political discourse of history and the political geography of a modern city. Renaming streets features prominently in revolutionary changes of political regime. As a ritual of revolution, the renaming of the past is also an effective demonstration of the reshaping of political power structures. This article examines the process of renaming East Berlin's communist past in the years 1990-4 and the subsequent reshaping of the city's postcommunist political geography as an aspect of the reunification of Germany, and of Berlin in particular. The article investigates the ideological dispositions and political configurations that controlled and directed the renaming process, elaborating on the renaming process as a discourse of German national identity that is articulated in terms of the canonization of a democratic historical heritage. It discusses the renamings accomplished in 1990-2 at the level of district assemblies and analyzes the attempt made in 1993-4 by the 'Independent Commission' nominated by the Berlin Senate to rename thoroughfares in the center of Berlin, designated to become the seat of the national government of a reunited and democratic Germany.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-493
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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