The recent global events of civil and political unrest that started in the US have brought to the fore the complex dynamics of urban memorialisation. The protests have, in some places, led to renewed scrutiny of certain urban symbols such as commemorative statues – what they represent and how they are perceived and interpreted.
Unlike monuments and statues, place names (toponyms) are intangible, and less imposing, but nevertheless, an indispensable part of the urban symbolic landscape. Their inscription, erasure and re-inscription is highly political.
In a study of toponymy in Nairobi, Kenya, Kosuke Matsubara and Melissa Wanjiru (University of Tsukuba, Japan) analysed how streets got their names. It’s important to examine this as street naming and renaming allows to remember and forget events and people in history. It also articulates what values exist in pursuit of political or national interests.