Names, norms and forms: French and indigenous toponyms in early colonial Dakar, Senegal

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Research on street naming systems in general and on colonial street names in particular is not abundant. This article examines the French colonial policy regarding street names in Dakar, as well as the accompanying colonial terminology that was applied in Dakar's quarters. With occasional references to the pre-colonial and the post-colonial periods, the main focus of this article is on street names in early colonial Dakar, as they were designated by the preliminary master plan of Pinet-Laprade in the 1860s. While residential segregation was never a stated policy on the part of the colonial authorities there, who formally fostered assimilation, it will be shown that toponyms had a key role in the alienation of the indigenous population in the city centre. As Dakar's city centre was considered 'European' and a chief lieu de colonisation in West Africa, its colonial urban toponyms reflected an official memory that excluded African histories and identities. Using original historical evidence, alternative naming systems of reference to certain urban areas on the part of the Dakarois will be discussed - systems that sometimes challenged and sometimes supplemented their French counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-501
Number of pages23
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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