Towards Creating a Global Urban Toponymy—A Comment

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

12 Scopus citations


This commentary points to the problems inherent in critical place names studies in terms of classic research topics, methodologies and geographies. It expounds the limits of the official “index”, that is, the variety of traditional urban inscriptions on which critical toponymy scholars rely in interpreting modern urban spatialities—e.g., lists of street names, official street signage, gazetteers, archival materials, etc. The argument is that in Southern urban contexts, where informality in planning can reach up to about 80 percent of the city, researching official naming and signage renders a distorted image of the city and its namescape production. A comment is thus made on the need to embrace more innovative and almost ethnographic research methodologies for understanding place referencing, place attachment and everyday navigational channels in Southern cities. These will generate a more substantial contribution towards the creation of global urban toponymy and a further de-colonization of Eurocentric presumptions regarding governmentality, urban management, and the accompanying role of street naming systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
JournalUrban Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Southern cities
  • nondescript addresses
  • official street naming systems
  • toponymic “index”
  • unofficial toponymy
  • urban Africa
  • urban informality


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