The Toponymic Inscription Problematic in Urban Sub-Saharan Africa: From Colonial to Postcolonial Times

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Toponymic inscriptions, (post)colonial planning cultures, urban sub-Saharan Africa, British and French legacies, (un)ambiguous addresses, named/nameless streets

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We examine a variety of problems relating to toponymic inscription processes in urban sub-Saharan Africa. The objective is to promote understanding of: the origins, evolution, nature, extent and social implications of these problems in an era of globalization; the vocabularies of built space; and the navigation techniques of inhabitants of supposedly nondescript built space in this region. We employed primary data based on in situ experiences and secondary data from published and unpublished documents. We found that the region’s toponymic inscription problem, its built space, and urban vocabularies are deeply embedded in its European colonial legacy. Furthermore, we found that urban residents in this region have devised functional means to navigate their seemingly nondescript space. These revelations promise to fill some historiographic gaps in the literature on toponymic inscription in Africa in particular and urban history and planning in general.

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Journal of Asian and African Studies, v. 50, issue 1, p. 25-40