Giving name to streets, giving streets to names. Organising urban space following toponymy practices

Claudio Coletta


Abstract The article investigates the practices of giving names to streets. It looks

at the city as an expanded laboratory and tackles urban issues following the per-

formative action of names. Particularly, the study follows the action-nets resulting

from toponymic processes. It adopts an organisational approach to urban phe-

nomena with the aim of accounting for the device through which a part of the city

is shaped. In this sense, the practices of naming spaces represent a sort of switch

between organisational and urban dimension. Mainly, they involve the material na-

ture of spatial organisation and the situated character of administrative work: what

makes an urban space as such? How is it made up and organised? How do its dif-

ferent modes of existence take place, differ from, and relate to, one another? The-

se issues will be explored by taking into account how names actually emerge and

produce relations that connect heterogeneous materials, connoting and classifying

them as urban spaces. How to account for practices of giving names to streets?

How do names act? What are they made of? What are the implications of giving

names to streets? The street name acts as a sort of interface between everyday

and institutional life, between collective memory and lived experience, between

administrative and technoscientific practices. It is thanks to these mediation skills

that a street name is shaped and receives its performative power, and it is towards

those aspects that the investigation is oriented.


Keywords classifications; urban space; maps; toponymy; organizational practices.

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