Naming the Past: The Significance of Commemorative Street Names

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Drawing on examples from different geographical settings, political contexts and historical periods, this chapter explores the signicance of street names as vehicles of commemoration. At a practical level, street names provide the users of the city with spatial orientation. When used for commemorative purposes, street names and the version of history they introduce into the public sphere belong to the semiotic makeup of local and national identity and to the structures of power and authority. In their commemorative capacity, street names communicate ofcial representations of the ruling socio-political order. In particular, they introduce an ofcial version of history into networks of social communication that involve ordinary urban experiences that seem to be separated from the realm of political ideology. The rst part of the article expands on the political signicance of street names by focusing on commemorative naming and renaming of streets. The second part explores aspects of signication. One is the semantic displacements effected by using street names for commemorative purposes and the shift from history to geography it entails. The other elaborates on reading a spatially congured set of commemorative street names as a city-text of history.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Toponymies
Subtitle of host publicationThe Contested Politics of Place Naming
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781351947275
ISBN (Print)9781138267756
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 Lawrence D. Berg and Jani Vuolteenaho.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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