1st Edition

Street-Naming Cultures in Africa and Israel Power Strategies and Place-Making Practices

By Liora Bigon, Michel Ben Arrous Copyright 2022
    262 Pages 146 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    262 Pages 146 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is focused on the street-naming politics, policies and practices that have been shaping and reshaping the semantic, textual and visual environments of urban Africa and Israel. Its chapters expand on prominent issues, such as the importance of extra-formal processes, naming reception and unofficial toponymies, naming decolonisation, place attachment, place-making and the materiality of street signage. By this, the book directly contributes to the mainstreaming of Africa’s toponymic cultures in recent critical place-names studies. Unconventionally and experimentally, comparative glimpses are made throughout between toponymic experiences of African and Israeli cities, exploring pioneering issues in the overwhelmingly Eurocentric research tradition. The latter tends to be concentrated on Europe and North America, to focus on nationalistic ideologies and regime change and to over-rely on top-down ‘mere’ mapping and street indexing. This volume is also unique in incorporating a rich and stimulating variety of visual evidence from a wide range of African and Israeli cities. The materiality of street signage signifies the profound and powerful connections between structured politics, current mundane practices, historical traditions and subaltern cultures.

    Street-Naming Cultures in Africa and Israel is an important contribution to urban studies, toponymic research and African studies for scholars and students.

    Chapters 1 and 2 of this book are freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license available at http://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781003173762



    List of figures

    About the authors

    Foreword by Frédéric Giraut


    1. Introduction: Toponymic cultures and the study of place naming in

    African (and Israeli) contexts

    Conceptualising toponymic cultures: Why, what for, and how?

    Mainstreaming Africa in critical toponymy scholarship: Issues and challenges

    The formal tree and the informal forest

    Deprovincialising Africa’s toponymic studies

    Joining global conversations

    Book outline


    2. Names in the city: Street signage in urban Africa and Israel

    Introductory note

    Panel I ‒ Brazzaville/Holon: Visual and conceptual connections

    Panel II ‒ (Post-)colonial ideologies and signage: A top-down view

    Panel III ‒ Reshaping the public space: Bottom-up responses

    Panel IV ‒ The politics of street numbering

    Panel V ‒ Signs and the sense of place

    Panel VI ‒ Signage in neoliberal times

    Panel VII ‒ Fading and perishable street signs

    Panel VIII ‒ What’s your address? Living with no street signs
    Exhibition participants

    3. A Tale of two Brazzas: Intertwining (post-)colonial namescapes

    Introductory note

    The state of study and Holon’s (inspiring) mistake

    The two Brazzas intertwined

    Concluding note


    4. Beyond street names: A tapestry of toponymic legacies in Dakar, Senegal

    Introductory note

    Naming the streets: Making the city French

    Changing places, keeping the names: Vernacular toponymy in the colonial context

    Street re-naming: A postcolonial debate and its limits

    Beyond street names: Broader dynamics of toponymic change



    5. An off-the-grid toponymic ambiguity at the heart of a world city: The case of Givat Amal, Tel Aviv

    Introductory note

    Tel Aviv as a world city with a ‘hot’ toponymic ambiance

    From a world city to a colonial city: Constructing informality and subalternity

    through title-to-land, infrastructure and place naming

    Givat Amalʼs toponymy of the everyday: Politics and kinetics

    Toponymic imaginary: correspondence from above

    Toponymic imaginary: correspondence from below



    6. Conclusion: The worldling of toponymic legacies
















    Liora Bigon (PhD in Architecture, the University of Manchester) is an urban (planning) historian. She specialises in (post-)colonial urban history and planning cultures in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on West Africa. A senior staff member at Holon Institute of Technology, she has published widely in these fields. Her latest book – Grid Planning in the Urban Design Practices of Senegal (with Prof. E. Ross, Springer, 2020) – included an in situ survey of a dozen important Senegalese Sufi urban localities.

    Michel Ben Arrous is an architect by training (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL) and a doctor in geography (PhD, Université de Rouen). North Africa born, he served as a journalist in Southern and West Africa prior to a long companionship with CODESRIA (the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa). He has lectured and published extensively on the history of geographic ideas and fantasies in their relation to citizenship crises, media and conflict, urban cultures and the production of space and place.

    "Street-Naming Cultures in Africa and Israel is an insightful, analytically rigorous and theoretically fluent comparative examination of the toponymic processes that link Africa and Israel – and France ‒ within broader semantic, textual and visual urban practices. The range, breadth and depth of the chapters and the elegance of the language provide an exceptional concreteness to cross-systemic analysis of street naming."

    Professor Wale Adebanwi, Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, Oxford University, UK

    "This valuable and unique contribution to critical place-name studies upends longstanding Eurocentrism in the field of toponymy in its empirical sites for comparison and its approach. It brings the discourses around street-naming alive, analytically, visually and culturally. The analysis is cogent and the juxtapositions both novel and striking."

    Professor Garth Myers, Trinity College Hartford, CT, USA

    "Liora Bigon and Michel Ben Arrous offer here a lively, knowledgeable and pleasant back-door entry into the contemporary city. By taking us through the logics of place-naming, both of official decision-makers and of people’s practices, they make us hear many of the voices that shape the lived city experience. Deep down, the authors show that the polynomy of places in Africa as well as in Israel is at the same time a journey, an invitation, and an encyclopaedia in the making."

    Profssor Doutor César Cumbe, Universidade Pedagógica, Maputo, Mozambique

    "This excellent book provides a much-needed focus on non-western politics of urban naming through detailed and fascinating case studies of cities in Israel and Africa. It highlights the entanglements of people and things, as well as the contentious and convoluted histories, which characterise the process of naming. It is a book that should provide inspiration to all scholars interested in urban politics and history."

    Professor Rhys Jones, Aberystwyth University, UK