Street Names and Iconography

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


The primary function of street names is to provide spatial orientation. This utilitarian function and their seeming ordinariness tend to conceal that street names belong to structures of authority and legitimacy. Naming streets is a feature of modern political culture. Spatially configured and historically constructed, a set of street names constitute a distinct and dynamic city-text that is featured in cartographic representations of the city. When used for commemorative purposes, the iconography of street names pertains to the politics of public memory. Spatial commemorations transpose history into geography. Commemorative street names conflate a mapping of urban space with an index of a canonical history. As a vehicle of commemoration, they address history in terms of space, a distinct location, and in language, where streets are repeatedly mentioned by their names. As elements of language, commemorative street names introduce an authorized version of history into numerous references to, and narratives of, the city. In these narratives, street names denote a location but concurrently also evoke history. In this semiotic capacity, they introduce the ideological underpinnings of the ruling sociopolitical order into spheres of social communication that seem to exist outside of the realm of political control and manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-12
ISBN (Electronic)9780080449104
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • City-text
  • Commemoration
  • Commemorative street naming
  • Iconography
  • Nation building
  • National identity
  • Public memory
  • Regime change
  • Semantic displacement
  • Semiotic construction
  • Street names

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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