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Pushed off the map: toponymy and the politics of place in New York City

Madden, David J. (2018) Pushed off the map: toponymy and the politics of place in New York City. Urban Studies, 55 (8). 1599 - 1614. ISSN 0042-0980

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0042098017700588


This article examines conflicts over neighborhood renaming and the politics of place. Toponymy, or the practice of place naming, is central to the constitution of place, and neighborhood renaming is a pervasive urban strategy. But despite its prevalence, the role of neighborhood toponymic conflict in processes of urban restructuring has not been given sustained engagement from urban scholars. This article uses archival and ethnographic data from an area in Brooklyn, New York to argue that contemporary neighborhood renaming facilitates uneven local development. Real estate developers and residents of expensive private housing use toponymy to legitimize their privileged positions, while public housing residents experience the same toponymic change as a form of symbolic displacement. Conflicts surrounding neighborhood renaming should therefore be seen as a symbolic dimension to struggles over resources, property, identity, and belonging in urban space.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Author
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2017 09:36
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:22

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