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The classroom as “toponymic workspace”: towards a critical pedagogy of campus place renaming



There are growing debates over removing the names of racist historical figures from public schools and university campus buildings, streets, and other public spaces. This article develops a pedagogical framework for transforming the classroom into a “toponymic workspace,” where students can understand and possibly make interventions in the politics of place (re)naming within their own educational institutions. Moving away from traditionally passive treatments of toponyms, we focus on the materiality and active political-affective work behind the creation and maintenance of commemorative campus toponymies along with the complicity of place naming in creating violent social and cultural orders that have contributed to the production of racially-wounded places. We offer three instructional strategies for developing a critical pedagogy of campus place naming: (1) tracing and mapping the historical-ideological genealogies of “landscape backstories” related to naming practices and named spaces; (2) documenting and empathizing with the “affective entanglements” of educational toponyms associated with historically marginalized identities, memories, and struggles; and (3) interrogating questions of “procedural justice” within university place naming policies. We conclude by underscoring the broader aim of this pedagogical framework, which is to engage students in planning a more inclusive and socially just campus landscape.
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Journal of Geography in Higher Education
ISSN: 0309-8265 (Print) 1466-1845 (Online) Journal homepage:
The classroom as “toponymic workspace”: towards
a critical pedagogy of campus place renaming
Derek H. Alderman & Rose-Redwood Reuben
To cite this article: Derek H. Alderman & Rose-Redwood Reuben (2020) The classroom as
“toponymic workspace”: towards a critical pedagogy of campus place renaming, Journal of
Geography in Higher Education, 44:1, 124-141, DOI: 10.1080/03098265.2019.1695108
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Published online: 24 Nov 2019.
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The classroom as toponymic workspace: towards a critical
pedagogy of campus place renaming
Derek H. Alderman
and Rose-Redwood Reuben
Department of Geography, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA;
Department of Geography,
University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
There are growing debates over removing the names of racist
historical gures from public schools and university campus build-
ings, streets, and other public spaces. This article develops
a pedagogical framework for transforming the classroom into
atoponymic workspace,where students can understand and
possibly make interventions in the politics of place (re)naming
within their own educational institutions. Moving away from tradi-
tionally passive treatments of toponyms, we focus on the materi-
ality and active political-aective work behind the creation and
maintenance of commemorative campus toponymies along with
the complicity of place naming in creating violent social and cul-
tural orders that have contributed to the production of racially-
wounded places. We oer three instructional strategies for devel-
oping a critical pedagogy of campus place naming: (1) tracing and
mapping the historical-ideological genealogies of landscape
backstoriesrelated to naming practices and named spaces; (2)
documenting and empathizing with the aective entanglements
of educational toponyms associated with historically marginalized
identities, memories, and struggles; and (3) interrogating questions
of procedural justicewithin university place naming policies. We
conclude by underscoring the broader aim of this pedagogical
framework, which is to engage students in planning a more inclu-
sive and socially just campus landscape.
Received 30 June 2019
Accepted 16 October 2019
Critical toponymy; cultural
landscape; place naming;
university campus; critical
In response to growing debates over removing the names of racist historical gures from
public schools and university campus buildings, streets, and other public spaces, this
article develops a pedagogical framework for transforming the classroom into
atoponymic workspace.We illustrate this approach by proposing concrete strategies
to implement critical pedagogies of place naming on college and university campuses,
using the educational context of the United States as an example. Such a toponymic
workspace would prepare students to understand the politics of place (re)naming and
critique seemingly naturalized toponymic formations within their own educational
institutions and the larger society. This idea of fashioning the classroom into
CONTACT Derek H. Alderman Department of Geography, University of Tennessee, Knoxville,
2020, VOL. 44, NO. 1, 124141
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
a toponymic workspace is envisioned as part of an emerging critical geographies of
educationapproach (McCreary, Basu, & Godlewska, 2013; Nguyen, Cohen, & Hu,
2017), which examines the role of schools as sites for rearming, challenging, and
hopefully healing from historical and contemporary racial inequalities.
To assist in fashioning these toponymic workspaces, we propose a pedagogical
approach that moves us away from traditional textual/linguistic and artifact-centered
analyses of place names by:
recognizing the active political-aective workbehind and accomplished through
the naming and claiming of place as both an oppressive social practice and a tool of
social justice and anti-racist resistance;
situating place naming within the material, embodied, and violent practices of
social life all of which are inseparable from the politics of race, gender, and class
that deem certain voices, histories, and lived experiences to matter more than
excavating the struggles of socially marginalized groups over contested commem-
orative landscapes, especially as they relate to struggles for civil rights, material
expression and self-determination, and sense of place and belonging in a white
supremacist society.
We also oer three instructional strategies for documenting, analyzing, and interven-
ing to reshape the commemorative landscapes of college and university campuses. The
rst instructional strategy involves classrooms tracing and mapping the historical-
ideological genealogies of landscape backstoriesof naming practices and named spaces
on campuses and the implications of these histories for political debates over identity,
memory, and race in the present. The second instructional strategy calls for classrooms to
document the aective entanglementsof educational toponymies in relation to the
contemporary identities, memories, and material conditions of dierent people,
empathizing with social actors and groups traditionally marginalized from the power
to name. Lastly, the third instructional strategy calls for classrooms to serve as spaces in
which to interrogate university place naming policies (or the lack thereof), assess the
procedural injustices in these policies, and plan what a more inclusive and anti-racist
naming policy and campus landscape might look like.
By way of example, our discussion is centered on the U.S. context and the often
contentious relationship that schools and universities have had with race generally and
African American civil and cultural rights in particular. Yet, these issues are not restricted
to one country or one marginalized group. Universities across the globe have become
ashpoints for debates over renaming buildings and campus features as educational
institutions struggle to acknowledge, debate, and come to terms with the legacy of
white supremacy. It is our hope that the conceptual approaches and instructional
strategies contained in this article might advance pedagogy not only in or about the
United States but more generally as a larger array of universities in other regional and
political contexts deal with their racist pasts. For example, toponymic workspaces are
needed in classrooms to address the pervasive imprint of settler colonialism and the
erasure of Indigenous ties to the land on college and university campuses in Canada and
Australia (as well as the U.S.), the ongoing presence of apartheid-era place names in
South Africa, and recent debates in the United Kingdom over public places bearing the
names of philanthropists who also owned and traded enslaved people.
The remainder of this article is organized into three broad sections. In the rst section,
we push back against the assumption that universities are inherently progressive institu-
tions by highlighting how they are sites of racialized trauma or wounding and how the
array of place names on campuses constitute a hidden, power-laden curriculum in need
of interrogation. Second, we outline the broad conceptual frameworks necessary for
moving towards a critical pedagogy of campus place naming, drawing from recent
conceptual innovations in critical toponymic scholarship to help us enliven the racialized
lives, struggles, and material spaces that undergird, and are aected by, campus naming
practices. The third section oers grounded ideas for how to transform the classroom
into a toponymic workspace that can begin to document, interpret, and perhaps chal-
lenge and change the naming processes of educational institutions.
In laying out suggested strategies in the articlesnal section, our intent is not to be
overly prescriptive. We recognize, of course, that one size does not t all instructionally
and educators will need to tailor how much and in what way they take on these
pedagogical approaches and classroom projects based on their own positionality and
that of their students, the potential risks involved for instructors with insecure employ-
ment status who may be vulnerable to a backlash from conict avoidant administrators,
and the level of academic preparation and maturity within the classroom. As Alderman,
Narro Perez, Eaves, Klein, and Muñoz (2019) recently note, anti-racist learning can evoke
strong emotional responses in the form of both support and resistance from students,
teachers, supervisors, and wider communities (parents, donors, legislators, etc.) that
demand strategic management, especially in the neoliberal university.
The practical approaches outlined in this article require educators to be reexive, both
internally and openly with students in their classrooms, about how student and teacher
identities and backgrounds of privilege or marginalization no doubt inform a critical
pedagogy of place naming, how that pedagogy is framed and received, and ultimately
how eectively it is operationalized. Of particular importance is acknowledging the ways
in which educatorsracial and gender identity and professional rank (whether adjunct,
tenure-track, or tenured faculty) shape the politics of questioning and even challenging
previously normative ideas about memory and place on campus. Positionality shapes the
protections aorded to teachers, their vulnerability to possible administrative retaliation,
and student perceptions of the authority of certain educators to take on topics that can be
contentious and evoke resistance or apathy from some students. Nevertheless, it is
important to take on sensitive and controversial topics in the geography classroom, but
this requires the development of carefully-crafted pedagogical strategies (e.g. Leib, 1998;
Pierce & Widen, 2017).
Schools and universities as wounded places and places that wound
Educational institutions, particularly in the United States, are an important example of
what Karen Till (2012) calls wounded placesmarked by histories of discrimination and
segregation. They have also been major battlegrounds for civil rights struggles over
integration and racial equality in access, funding, and quality of education (Alderman,
2002). However, schools and universities remain sites of racial trauma in the sense that
they are places that continue to wound racial and ethnic minorities through ongoing acts
of intimidation, discrimination, the ongoing surge of white supremacist propaganda on
university campuses (Bauer-Wolf, 2019), and the re-segregation of U.S. public schools
(McNeal, 2009). Largely missing within the critical geographies of education literature,
and our understanding of the racial politics of U.S. education more broadly, is
a consideration of place (re)naming as a social and political process, and named spaces
as landscapes of power and struggle (but see Ferguson, 2019).
The names attached to educational institutions may appear benign and banal, but
there is actually a strong relationship between names of schools and narratives of race,
place, and justice (racial and spatial)(Agosto, Kyobe, & Elam, 2017, p. 69). Names
applied to schools and university spaces constitute a form of hidden curriculum that
promotes identication and connection with certain social goals and ideological interests
among students and their communities. Naming for commemorative purposes commu-
nicates powerful, selective messages about who is historically important and hence who,
racially speaking, matters most in the present (Alderman, 2016). These names, like more
formal aspects of the educational curriculum, actively instruct and aect students and
their communities by inserting these toponyms into the fabric of everyday life in ways
that appear to be beyond politics. Yet, place naming is always a political project and the
authority and social values legitimized through naming places are open to question and
challenge. Indeed, school- and university-based toponymic landscapes in the U.S. are
contested arenasfor activists and other reformers to challenge and change names as
part of larger debates over race and memory in U.S. society more generally.
A growing number of U.S. universities and K-12 schools are embroiled in debates over
the longtime commemoration and valorization of white supremacy through campus
toponymic landscapes. Activists have called for and in some instances succeeded in
removing the names of Ku Klux Klan leaders, Confederate generals, and perpetrators of
slavery, genocide, and racism from residence halls, campus buildings, and streets as well
as entire schools and colleges. Meanwhile, we have seen the rise of campaigns to address
the marginalization of people of color, women, and Indigenous peoples by rewriting
educational namescapes in their honor although these proposals are also sometimes
fraught with controversy and far from completed satisfactorily (Brasher, Alderman, &
Inwood, 2017; Holson, 2019).
Disenfranchised social groups increasingly treat school and university place naming as
a political strategy for not only removing symbols that valorize racism but also recovering
a Black sense of place and the past as well as elevating the names and contributions of
African Americans (Alderman, 2002). Reacting to their own sense of alienation and
victimization on campus and fueled as of late by the Black Lives Matter movement and
the recent upsurge in white nationalism, students of color have frequently played
a central role in calling for commemorative place name reform at their schools and
universities. These calls for memorial and toponymic justice have been met with wide-
ranging responses (Brasher et al., 2017). Some students, parents, alumni, and school
ocials resist losing longtime campus toponyms. Others have sought to curtail contro-
versies over place naming by replacing highly-charged references to racist historical
gures with sanitized monikers that decidedly avoid any mention or association to
race. In doing so, they hope to change the political discussionbut fail to carry out
the memory-work of (ad)dressing the wounds of racial trauma and invisibility and thus
miss a valuable reparative opportunity to actively remember and honor the lives of
people of color (Inwood & Alderman, 2016).
Towards a critical pedagogy of place naming
The classroom can oer an important site for exploring the signicance and meaning of
current toponymic debates and changes at educational institutions. Yet, few pedagogical
tools exist for understanding and investigating the history and politics of place naming.
The purpose of this article is to oer analytical lenses and instructional strategies for
transforming the classroom into a toponymic workspace that not only advances students
general understanding of how and for whom place naming works but also questions the
commemorative practices that have shaped studentsown campus landscapes.
To develop a critical pedagogy of place naming calls for us to rethink how we have
tended to approach toponymy as a subject of study. The eld of place name studies is
undergoing signicant critical re-theorization as we move beyond traditional approaches
that conceptualize toponyms merely as linguistic indicators or artifacts of culture,
history, and environment that can be catalogued, classied, and mapped (Rose-
Redwood, Alderman, & Azaryahu, 2010). To see place names as simply the product or
expression of social life is too passive and does not fully capture their role in the process
of constituting and shaping social life. Recent work stresses place naming as a political
technology implicated in carrying out a range of socio-spatial practices, from nation-
building and place commodication to subaltern resistance, along with being part of the
aective, lived experiences and habits of people as they inhabit, claim, and create places
(Berg & Vuolteenaho, 2009; Giraut & Houssay-Holzschuch, 2016; Light & Young, 2014;
Rose-Redwood, Alderman, & Azaryahu, 2018).
Advancing critical pedagogical approaches to place name studies entails utilizing
a number of dierent lenses for understanding how social actors and groups construct,
interpret, identify with, and contest toponymic landscapes. There is not sucient space
to review all of these lenses here. For the purposes of our discussion of commemorative
place naming controversies in schools and universities, we focus on the materiality and
racialization of spaces that accompany campus place naming. We also stress the active
work and aective politics underlying toponyms, and even the complicity of place
naming in producing violent social and cultural orders that have contributed to the
production of racially-wounded places, including schools and universities.
The materiality of place naming
We experience place naming not just linguistically but also materially. Toponyms are
part of the built environment as well as the cultural planning and claiming of places. They
mark signs, make buildings and streets usable and recognizable, accompany place
branding and real estate development, and work to impose a broader socio-symbolic
order onto spaces. Racism is a spatial system as well as a social one, where the built
environment does not just reect the imprint of racism but also helps to normalize it or
can serve as the basis for contesting its legitimacy. The establishment and maintenance of
white privilege and supremacy requires an exclusive system of material spaces to rein-
force and legitimize Black subjugation. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and
1960s brought only a partial end to the racialization of spaces, places, and built environ-
mental structures, as evidenced by continued struggles over equal racial access to
neighborhoods, schools, transportation, and public spaces including the power to
reshape the commemorative toponymies of cities (Alderman & Inwood, 2013).
School-related naming practices are more than symbolic gestures, but linked to the
racialized coding and controlling not just of student populations but also the wider
communities and territories that surround and draw identity from educational toponyms
(Moran, 2019). Place naming can give physical form and permanence to white power, as
illustrated by the continued presence of certain racialized place naming patterns that
have now become the target of challenge by anti-racist activists (Alderman, 2006). It is
therefore important to consider how a history of racialized place naming, which elevates
and maintains the physical visibility and prominence of white supremacist gures within
public spaces, creates an environment in which other, alternative ideas and identities
appear not to have a place, both literally and guratively.
In recognizing how place naming contributes to the social climates or atmospheres of
our surroundings, we must consider how social groups deploy the material presence and
visibility of toponyms to both reinforce and challenge the broader materiality of racial
segregation in U.S. cities. For example, some place (re)naming proponents envision
identifying places by name with African American historical gures as not only a way
of rewriting the nations collective memory in more diverse ways but also contesting the
racialized material spaces and inequalities that have long limited Black eorts to claim
and realize their right to the city and its public spaces.
The aective work of place naming
In addition to emphasizing the materiality of place naming, we encourage teachers to
adopt an action or workapproach to critical toponymy, which recognizes naming as
astate of doingalong with a state of being.Toponyms do not simply appear or evolve
but are the direct, ongoing product of the embodied work of naming. Through the act of
naming and using toponyms, we claim places and perform certain social identities and
socio-spatial relations. Place names are made socially real and important through bodily
performances, speech acts, and sensory experiences and perceptions of people that
cannot be fully captured by only examining the textual place of toponyms on maps or
other documents traditionally analyzed by naming scholars (Kearns & Berg, 2002; Rose-
Redwood, 2008). It is therefore important to identify the physical, social, intellectual, and
emotional work undertaken in the naming process that breathes life and meaning into
these names.
Naming has ecacy and people engage in naming, along with other place-making
practices, to produce a desired or strategic result that serves a social and political interest
for a particular community, social actor, nation, or organization. A focus on a state of
doingprovokes a consideration of who is given power and authority to do the work of
naming places, for whom do these place names work, and in what specic way does this
place naming work to the benet of certain groups over others. Conversely, we are
provoked to consider who lacks the power to do the work of naming and why, for whom
do certain place names work against, and in what specic ways are social groups and
interests deprived or ignored when certain place name work is carried out. Key to this
latter question is an assumption that place naming is aective work, labor resulting from
mobilized bodies, ideas, and emotions that most assuredly aects people and places in
consequential ways.
These questions of who has the power to control and benet from naming are relevant
across many cultural and national contexts, but they particularly resonate with African
Americans. Traditionally, the embodied work of axing names to spaces on school and
university campuses, including the names of entire schools, were part of the larger
ideological labor of valorizing a worldview that privileged white male historical gures
over Black historical achievements, even in educational institutions serving largely
minority student populations. Little wonder that as far back as the days of Jim Crow
segregation, African Americans sought to resist these practices and claim the power to
name schools on their own terms as part of the struggle of self-determination and civil
rights (Davis, 2015). The work of place naming in the United States is invariably part of
the embodied labor and political work of racial (in)justice.
Another important aspect of an action-oriented approach to place naming is teaching
that once people (re)name places, those toponyms continue to work on, inuence, and
impact dierent social actors and groups in dierent and signicant ways. Wideman and
Masuda (2018, p. 498) have recently called on scholars to move beyond a historical
description of toponymic usage within places to pay attention to the highly political
consequential geographies’” that cut across time and space. Depending upon where,
when, and how toponyms are internalized and mobilized within peoples lived worlds,
place naming has the capacity to move people to feeling and action in dierent ways.
There are larger emotional geographies that surround and run through toponyms
(Kearney & Bradley, 2009). Toponyms constitute and shape peoples sense of place (or
displacement), sense of belonging (or alienation), and psychosocial well-being. As
a result, there is often a highly emotional public outcry when ocials propose to remove
toponyms with strong place attachments or when groups nd a longstanding place name
oensive or degrading to their social position and identity.
The violence of place naming
As educators and students explore the embeddedness of place naming within lived
experiences, they should also consider the violence marked by, and (re)produced
through, commemorative toponyms. The equation of place naming to violence probably
strikes some people as odd, but this uneasiness in and of itself suggests how much place
naming has become an unquestioned and seemingly apolitical feature of our everyday
lives rather than being seen as a socially constructed, contested, and consequential
practice. Understanding the violence of place naming will be helpful in sensitizing
students as future leaders and decision-makers about the important role that landscape
symbolism and public spatial expression play in the racialized politics of belonging.
Importantly, place names do not simply result from social power relations; rather,
naming practices are also, knowingly and unwittingly, productive and generative of social
power dynamics. Place names are not ideologically innocent spatial references but
grounded within violent histories of European settler colonialism and imperialism that
have long used the political arithmetic and cartography of mapping and ordering space to
dispossess and displace Indigenous communities, people of color, and other marginalized
groups (Murphyao & Black, 2015). Americas tradition of white-centric place naming has
facilitated a memoricide(Masalha, 2015), an active forgetting and misrepresenting of
subaltern attachments to place and the past that, if allowed to exist visibly, would throw
into question the primacy of white supremacy.
By perpetuating a public amnesia of the lived experiences of oppressed groups,
toponyms inict a symbolic and material violence on the agency and voice of racialized
minorities to the point that the larger society, and even the marginalized themselves, are
not encouraged to think critically about what or who is missing from prevailing land-
scape expressions. Because these unjust naming patterns have existed for so many
generations, they have taken on the power of becoming an unquestioned norm or
habit. Especially important to educators, the whitewashing of the commemorative
toponymic landscape is also a form of slowor attritionalviolence that harmfully
alters what counts as legitimate knowledge and hence the way in which people claim to
know and interact with the world (Nixon, 2013; Ward, 2015).
This slow toponymic violence is especially insidious since it skews how we narrate the
past and undermines our ability to root modern inequalities within their historical
contexts. The slow violence of racially-exclusive naming and remembering comes not
only from the selective memories it makes visible (or invisible and hence unimportant)
but also the opportunity costs that come with alternative memories not having a place of
potential expression and prominence. Converting the classroom into a toponymic work-
space means delving deep into how seemingly non-political place naming patterns are
invariably involved in an ideological project of shaping knowledge of history and
geography. Such a pedagogical workspace examines and complicates privileged ways of
remembering and identifying people and places, and it also connects toponyms with
larger geographies of perpetuating and resisting the violence of denying certain groups
social identities, place claims, and historical memories. Fashioning spaces in schools to
dissect the histories, geographies, and power-laden politics of toponyms would by
necessity need to be a pedagogical project of creating educational places of empathy
(Alderman, Kingsbury, & Dwyer, 2013).
While the decision to challenge a white supremacist regime of place naming is
increasingly a political strategy among African American activists and sympathetic
white allies, it is important for students and educators to recognize how seemingly
progressive place name reforms can perpetuate violence even as they seem to eradicate
it. Such violence can occur when the renaming of places is taken on as mere window
dressing, is taken on in a tokenistic way, or authorities place clear limits on how far the
renamed space challenges broader geographies of exclusion on university campuses.
When the renaming of public spaces gives the appearance of racial equality yet does
not actually challenge white supremacy, then a double violenceis inicted upon
communities of color (Brasher et al., 2017). It appears to engage in a form of anti-
racist work when, in fact, it perpetuates a damaging illusionary image of inclusion and
racial reconciliation that does not exist. The concept of double violence captures the
complex and all-too-incomplete nature of society coming to terms with the wounds of
white supremacy, placing racist place naming patterns within larger contexts of historical
inequality, and creating an armative landscape of African American belonging. Indeed,
as Zellars (2015) argues, the mere removal of racist place names and their replacement
with generic and presumably unifying monikers carries out a further erasure and harm to
Black identities and histories given that longstanding and steadfast invisibilityof people
of color within the landscape.
Schools and universities embroiled in place naming controversies have been especially
guilty of replacing the names of white supremacist historical gures with what admin-
istrators and governing boards consider to be neutral and non-controversial monikers.
These new names are intended, in eect, to move beyond the immediate controversy of
a racially-charged toponym rather than addressing the violence marked and symbolized
by the embattled name and memory being de-commemorated. Yet, there is violence that
comes with refusing to directly address a history of violence, trauma, and discrimination
as well as failing to do symbolic and spatial reparation to victimized/surviving commu-
nities historically written out of landscapes and collective memories (Brasher et al., 2017).
Instructional strategies for the classroom as toponymic workspace
As suggested in the previous sections, current place renaming eorts associated with
schools and universities reveal a multitude of important issues related to race, memory,
and social justice. More than merely symbolic gestures, ongoing struggles over educa-
tional toponyms can be viewed as a fundamental reworking of the material presence and
visibility of traditionally marginalized histories, identities, and lived experiences within
public spaces. The removal of certain racially-charged names and their replacement with
more inclusive commemorations is about redening the social groups and interests
served by toponyms along with who has a right to name and claim place. In light of
the historical and contemporary role that schools and universities have played in racial
discrimination, segregation, and trauma, place naming at these sites could potentially
play an important role in the aective work of repairing some of the harm and wounds
inicted upon Black communities through oppressive toponymic and commemorative
To realize the progressive ecacy of toponymic challenges and changes at educational
institutions requires that students are not just told of these concepts and values. They
must have the opportunity to engage in experiential learning that helps demonstrate the
saliency of these ideas on their own campuses. To assist with this pedagogical mandate,
we explore some potential place-based, instructional strategies that can guide students in
documenting, analyzing, and perhaps even reforming their schools geography of topo-
nymic commemoration. In doing so, we introduce three frameworks important to
developing a critical pedagogy of place naming: (1) landscape backstories, (2) aective
entanglements, and (3) procedural justice.
Tracing and mapping the landscape backstories of campus toponymies
An important initial instructional strategy in making onesclassroom a toponymic
workspace is to involve students in tracing the historical origin of commemorative
place names used on campus so as to determine who and what is memorialized and
for what reason. This requires building a biographical and demographic inventory of the
people whose names adorn campus places and identifying their historical role within the
school and wider society. Conducting such work will allow students to answer a host of
key questions: (1) What patterns are there, if any, in the historical role (military, religious,
educational, civil rights, etc.) of those commemorated by name? (2) What proportion of
people honored through toponyms are men (versus women or non-binary), adminis-
trators/faculty (versus students), and white-Anglo (versus Black, Indigenous, and other
racialized minorities)? (3) Are there instances in which campus places, or entire schools,
colleges, or universities, bear the names of people with questionable roles in perpetuating
racism, white supremacy, genocide, or other forms of discrimination?
This latter question is important because it is imperative that students know the full
story of whose names are valorized within their everyday spaces. The collection of data
on the origins of commemorated names is valuable in helping students identify
exclusions and silences in what and who is deemed historically important as well as
creating fertile ground for identifying Black historical contributions missing from
educational landscapes. If students nd evidence of people of color memorialized in
the names of campus locations, additional investigations can reveal if there are any
distinctive patterns in the gender, background, contribution, and historical era of the
person honored. In conducting this research, it would be interesting to determine how
many places on campus reference historical gures with direct connections with the
school, regardless of race, and those with a reputation that make them of local, state,
regional, national, or global importance. At work in some commemorative place
naming at schools and universities is a scalingof memory where institutions privilege
historical gures at certain bounded geographical levels, reputations, and attachments
more than others. This scaling of memory and naming on university campuses is not
incidental or something that simply happens but part of a strategy used by educational
institutions to make monuments to their own shared institutional histories, geogra-
phical imaginations, and perceived self-importance. How commemorative place nam-
ing is scaled, either in ways that constrain or liberate who can be memorialized, can
hinder or facilitate the ability of colleges and universities to make connections with and
take responsibility for discussing certain wider histories and social identities that
belong on campus even without a direct connection to the school.
For students, there is instructional value in not only tracing the origins of place names
but also mapping these toponyms and examining where these named spaces are located
in relation to each other and within the wider campus landscape. Previous geographical
and public history work on mapping campus names has found evidence of not just an
under-representation in the commemoration of certain racial/ethnic groups and women
but also spatial inequality and marginalization in the site and situation of these named
spaces. For example, in a class project, Names in Brick and Stone,students at UNC-
Chapel Hill used geographic information systems (GIS) to map a variety of character-
istics related to campus toponyms, such as the race, gender, era, and historical contribu-
tion of the namesake along with the era of the naming and the original and current use of
the named buildings (Whisnant, 2017). The geographic database that they produced for
UNC shows that in addition to the fact that most places are named for white men, those
places are concentrated in the highly visible and evocative historical core of the Chapel
Hill campus. By contrast, the few UNC buildings named for people of color, both men
and women, tend to be more peripheral in location. Ideally, it would be valuable to see
many schools and universities in the U.S. construct similar spatially-referenced databases
of commemorative place name origins and patterns thus allowing teachers and students
to conduct comparative studies with other educational institutions.
Given the geographical importance of commemorative toponyms at educational
institutions, students and teachers should use the classroom as a workspace for investi-
gating the landscape backstoriessurrounding these valorized names and their spaces.
The concept of landscape backstories captures the materiality of place naming and how
the meaning, power, and history of toponyms stems from how they are joined with built
environments and thus frame peoples spatial and social interactions. Inspired by geo-
graphers Hostetter and Brownell (2019), a focus on landscape backstories would uncover
the history of when the name was attached to a campus place, who conducted the
naming, and for what stated and deeper ideological purposes. Students could also explore
the toponymic landscape within the context of the wider social history of the institution,
state, and nation at the time of the naming. Story mapping holds great promise for
narrating these backstories of commemoratively-named landscapes, allowing students to
assemble a host of archival, photographic, and cartographic evidence together in one
Tracing, retelling, and visualizing the landscape backstories of named spaces, streets,
and buildings moves us away from an objectied and essentialist view of the campus
landscape. In doing so, we are able to be reexive about naming, commemoration, and
place-making. We can situate these processes in the context of the schoolsand
universitys own trajectory of social relations and racial inequalities. Documenting
landscape backstories allows for understanding the wider historical-political origins
of how, where, when, and why certain peoples names and memories are invoked,
circulated materially and socially, and become xed spatially. In turn, these backstories
carry insights into the specic events and logics involved in the work of naming and the
larger ideological-political interests and emotional aects that a given toponym was
intended to serve and create. For instance, UNC students had long called for the
removal of 19
century Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader William Saundersname from
acampusoce and classroom building, but the broader landscape backstory of
Saunders Hall forced university ocials to take more notice. As activists exposed,
when UNC Trustees named the building for Saunders in 1922, they cited his leadership
of North Carolinas KKK as a qualication for the naming and honor, along with his
other achievements (Menefee, 2019).
Finally, the landscape backstory of campus toponymies is not limited to the histor-
ical moment of the naming but also includes subsequent generations as that name
becomes an established part of the school and university. Buildings and other pieces of
infrastructure contain their own histories of social control and struggle and work
aectively in shaping peoples feelings and actions. Saunders Hall at UNC had been
the focus of student protests about its valorization of white supremacy since at least
1975 (University of North Carolina, 2016). The backstory of the campus building did
not end with the removal of Saundersname in 2015. The UNC Board of Trustees
decided to rename the building as Carolina Hall,deciding to erase any mention of
race in the name and against student, faculty, and community demands that the
replacement name honor Zora Neale Hurston, a noted African American author who
had once attended UNC unocially during the days of segregation. The UNC Trustees,
while representing the de-commemoration of Saunders as its progressive moment,
followed the renaming by instituting a 16-year moratorium on any other similar
toponymic changes on campus.
Documenting the aective entanglements of campus toponymic landscapes
Realizing the capacity of the classroom to become a toponymic workspace requires
examining and empathizing with the lived experiences that surround campus place
names. To achieve this goal, instructional strategies are needed to assist students with
documenting and relating to the aective entanglements that people have with campus
toponyms and their accompanying material expressions, especially people from histori-
cally marginalized groups long written out of the landscape. Drawing from Sumartojo
and Graves (2019), aective entanglements refer to how toponyms and their attendant
creation of place become entangled with peoples memories, perceptions, sensations,
histories, lived experiences, and material forms. The consumption of name and memory
is enveloped within an atmosphere or feel of placethat can draw out varying emotions
and reactions from pride to ambivalence to resistance depending upon what one
brings to named spaces.
Educators should therefore consider strategies for students to identify and empathize
with contemporary feelings and experiences surrounding the atmospheres of campus
spaces and names. One possible strategy is to involve students in what Inwood and
Martin (2008) call a roving focus groupin which they walk around the campus
recording their thoughts and impressions about various memorials, named buildings,
and social spaces, particularly in terms of how those geographies aect studentssense of
belonging and well-being.
On these roving, student-directed tours of the University of Georgia (UGA), African
American students shared common experiences of racism on campus while also pointing
to those spaces and memorials that made the school feel to them as a place of white
privilege or a Confederate school. Even when these students commented on one of the
few buildings on the Georgia campus named for African Americans, they expressed
conicted and poignant feelings in the midst of what was a progressive commemoration.
Students noted how the named building and its accompanying memorial plaque omit-
[ed] much . .. [of the] pain and struggle about the process of desegregation and the wider
history and legacy of African Americans on the UGA campus(Inwood & Martin, 2008,
p. 392). This experiential strategy reminds us of how much studentsviews of, and
sensory experiences with, campus memorials and names are entangled with their
own day-to-day interactions with racial inequality and the degree to which they feel
that they belong or not.
A mobile, place-based pedagogy can involve students in explaining and reecting
upon how they interpret, live with, and are aected by educational toponyms that
some ocials might take for granted or dismiss. This exercise can also encourage
students, especially those from backgrounds of white privilege who have not critically
thought about the meanings and emotions circulating through toponymic land-
scapes, to empathize with the views and experiences of others whose lives are
entangled with these names and memorials in dierent ways. Carrying out roving
focusgroupsamongstudentswithdierent social and racial identities can possibly
create spaces of dialogue about toponymic debates and controversies, although there
is a special burden in ensuring that the perspectives of dominant student groups do
not drown out, disrespect, or further wound the voices of historically marginalized
In the event that roving focus groups are not feasible or advisable, the classroom can
still act as a toponymic workspace for students to design and conduct surveys of peoples
opinions and perceptions of named spaces on campus using questionnaires and inter-
views. In addition to gathering impressions from students, such hands-on instructional
projects might collect data from university educators, administrators, and other sta
along with members of communities surrounding the educational institution. This type
of critical listening and perspective gathering would uncover the various aective entan-
glements that make up campus toponymies. Understanding how named places become
entangled with ones racial and class identity, personal and social memories, and material
conditions and lived experiences can shed light on what toponyms mean to people, how
names aect racial belonging, and why they evoke highly-charged debates.
Student-directed surveys and interviews about the aective power of campus topo-
nyms and their attendant material spaces and practices could very well lead to learning
about the role of the built environment in the racialization process. Paying close attention
to the aective entanglements of toponyms might take us far in teaching and learning
about the role that place naming plays as a form of environmental micro-aggression
including those daily place-based indignities that communicate (whether intentionally or
not) hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color
(Ferguson, 2019). Ferguson (2019) has recently documented the racial micro-aggressions
created by the decisions of schools to maintain toponyms honoring white supremacists;
these names, according to her evidence, cause socio-emotional disruption for Black
teachers and their students(p. xii). Schooled in critical cartography, students could use
collected data to produce counter-mapsof specic named places on campus that are
the source of socio-emotional disruption and stress among students, teachers, and the
wider community.
Assessing procedural (in)justice in campus place naming policies
Important to any investigation of the critical geographies of education is understanding
how schools and universities operate as value-laden social institutions with their own
policies and networks of power. Also important to critical place name studies is moving
beyond the sense of inevitability that often surrounds the names attached to places and
the built environment and to uncover the decision-making processes driving toponymic
inscription. We encourage educators to adopt instructional strategies to help students
learn about and interrogate how their schools and universities take on the political work
of place (re)naming. Do the governing boards of these educational institutions have
transparent policies to regulate commemorative place naming, how inclusive is that
toponymic work in terms of addressing racial wounds, and do the institutions openly
consider the needs and perspectives of a wide range of public groups, especially histori-
cally marginalized groups?
Research in critical place name studies nds that toponymic decisions can be char-
acterized by what is called procedural injustice(Alderman & Inwood, 2013).
Procedural justice focuses on fairness in how public disputes and decisions are made
and who is included or excluded from the decision-making process all of which can
produce unequal and unfair outcomes. African Americans and other historically margin-
alized groups have long endured the procedural and participatory injustices of being shut
out of major public decisions that directly aect their well-being. This injustice partly
explains why so much of the U.S. commemorative toponymic landscape appears dis-
missive of, if not hostile to, Black claims to place and the past. Much of the toponymic
spaces found in schools and universities were formed not just during a time in which
white supremacy was valorized but also during eras when African Americans were
openly excluded or disenfranchised from legal decision-making.
Thus, it is imperative that students have an opportunity to engage in forms of active
learning about the ethics of toponymic decisions and policies within the larger society and
within their respective educational institutions. Instructionally, teachers might consider
bringing a copy of their school or university place naming policy into the classroom for
students to read and analyze in light of the tenets of procedural justice and the wounds of
racialized belonging that have traditionally characterized educational systems in the United
States. Students should be encouraged to evaluate the ecacy of that policy in seriously
addressing and reforming the commemoration of white supremacist historical gures
through campus named spaces.
As part of an in-class activity, students could be broken into collaborative groups to assess
and debate naming policies both on their own campus and at other educational institutionsas
points of comparison. Such an assessment would ask key questions about the power dynamics
written into those decision-making structures. According to a given campus naming policy,
decisions? What specic role do students, teachers, and wider communities have in place
name decision-making? Is there a mechanism for renaming places? If so, who is allowed to
that proposal treated, and what is required in terms of evidence for deciding upon proposals?
Does the policy specify any guidelines for evaluating historical gures, either those already
commemorated with a place name or those considered as a replacement name?
Students would, of course, take policies through a literal reading of what is denoted, but
they could also take policies through a deeper reading of social power relations. For example,
whose perspectives, histories, and interests does the campus naming policy appear to value?
Based on the procedures and rules outlined, does the policy appear to encourage or discourage
toponymic debates and changes? Would the students characterize the policy as having
a conservative or progressive approach to renaming places and features identied with
racially-charged historical gures? To what degree does the policy based on its language,
access, and history of use appear to be an inclusive document? Are there implicit or hidden
limits on whose voices appear to matter most in discussions and decisions regarding campus
placerenaming?Doesthepolicyenactanarroworwidedenition of public participation and
cultural citizenship? Is there a mechanism in the decision-making process for gathering
opinions and reactions from a variety of stakeholders aliated with the school or university?
It is quite likely that students and their teachers may struggle to locate an actual (re)naming
policy at their school or university. If a naming policy does exist, it may lack signicant
procedural or participatory justice measures and include restrictive denitions of what
constitutes an honoric name that may constrain the naming process. One of the authors
of the present article has served on his universitys naming committee, provided consulting
advice to the university administration related to a controversial renaming proposal, con-
tributed to the rewriting his universitys naming policy, and incorporated a critical analysis of
place naming patterns and processes into an introductory social and cultural geography
course. With the assistance of student research assistants, he has also led an eort to compile
a comprehensive inventory of campus naming policies for over 2,100 colleges and universities
in the United States and Canada (Rose-Redwood, 2016). According to the data collected,
approximately 19% of U.S. universities had publicly accessible naming policies and only 0.2%
of those universities with accessible naming policies included provisions for incorporating
public consultation as part of the naming process.
Place naming decision-making is an impenetrable black box on many campuses, if there is
a formal policy structure in existence at all. This in and of itself speaks volumes about the
procedural injustices that may confront an attempt to remove a racially oensive place name
from an educational institution. Many universities have rewarded major donors by placing
their names on buildings and other campus features. There is an active political economy of
toponymic commemoration at work on campuses even as some of these same institutions are
reluctant to remove the names of Confederate generals and others with racially-charged
reputations. Students should be encouraged to reect on schools and universities increasingly
treating campus place names as assets to be sold for revenue (for the school) and prestige (for
the donor) and how this tension complicates attempts to (re)form campus toponymic spaces
into unifying community symbols.
The underdeveloped and ethically fraught nature of many policies governing educational
toponyms, although disappointing, opens up instructional avenues in the classroom.
Educators might consider taking students through the scenario of writing their own place
naming policy for their school or university. Students and their teachers would have an
opportunity to think about what a procedurally just and historically responsible system of
commemorative place naming would look like on their own campus. What named spaces
would be likely candidates for change? What process would be necessary to ensure the
consideration of landscape backstories of named places and the acknowledgment of the voices
and experiences of African Americans and other historically marginalized groups? Students
might learn from examining the growing number of task forces organized by school districts
and universities, but they should also be encouraged to be creative and innovative in creating
a more reparative and regenerative commemorative toponymic landscape on campus so that
this landscape is governed in inclusionary and anti-racist ways (Nemeth, Aryeetey-Attoh, &
Muraco, 1992; Sheehan, 2019).
We would like to conclude by summarizing three major ideas for transforming our class-
rooms into toponymic workspaces. The hope underwriting this article is that our classrooms
can make interventions in how students, teachers, educational administrators, and the wider
public understand and respond to ongoing debates over racialized campus place names and
the continuing legacy of white supremacy at educational institutions supposedly devoted to
diversity, inclusion, and civil rights.
First, teaching a critical analysis of place naming at schools and universities demands more
than simply historical study and debate about the commemorated persons name and
reputation. A toponymic workspace should create instructional moments where students
can trace and critique the history of the spaces and landscapes within which the commem-
orative naming is carried out and sometimes struggled over. The geographical perspectives
and mapping tools of our students can be invaluable in identifying spatial inequalities in
commemorative campus naming patterns and visualizing the stories of how, where, when,
and why certain names were materialized in particular spaces.
Second, teaching a critical analysis of place naming requires that we breathe life into what
scholars have traditionally studied as linguistic patterns and landscape artifacts. This means
taking the aective capacity of commemorative toponyms seriously and recognizing how
these names and memories are entangled with and impact peoples lives, identities, and well-
being. A toponymic workspace can create instructional moments in which students leave the
classroom to move across and critique the campus landscape or conduct surveys and inter-
views to explore the aective power of educational toponyms and hopefully to develop an
empathy for the atmospheres and emotional geographies that surround racially-charged and
aggressive toponyms.
Third, teaching a critical analysis of place naming at educational institutions requires that
we understand the rules, ideologies, and social power dynamics that govern how and by whom
toponymic decisions are made on a policy level. A toponymic workspace creates moments for
students to conduct critical assessments of existing campus naming policies in terms of
procedural justice and the potential ecacy of carrying out anti-racist commemorative
reform. The classroom should also be a workspace for students and their teachers to be the
architects of more inclusionary and transparent place naming policies and decision-making
structures for their campuses. At the very least, such a pedagogical exercise is of academic
value. At the most, students could very well serve as leaders in inspiring and pushing ocials
towards progressive social change.
The authors wish to express their appreciation for the helpful suggestions made the anonymous
reviewers and editors of the journal. Reuben Rose-Redwood would also like to acknowledge the
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for funding the Insight Grant project,
Memory-Politics: Commemorative Conicts on University Campuses in North America,to
support his research on the geographies of commemoration in higher education settings. An
earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Seminar on Sea Names, held in
Alexandria, Virginia in July 2019.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
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... One arena where scholars themselves have much at stake with respect to their own praxis is the college or university in which they study and work. Indeed, university campuses have become spaces of commemorative contestation in recent years, which provides an opportunity for scholars to play an active role not only in studying but also intervening in the politics of reshaping the memoryscapes of the university campus (Brasher et al. 2017;Alderman and Rose-Redwood 2020;Kretsinger-Harries 2021). ...
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Public debates and controversies over monuments, memorials, and place names have become contentious focal points for struggles over historical memory and social identity. This special issue critically examines the spatial politics involved in the making, unmaking, and remaking of memoryscapes conceived as assemblages of memory-objects, practices, and imaginaries that relationally constitute memory/spaces. The contributions consider how particular conceptions of the past are interwoven into the memoryscapes of the present in an attempt to legitimize a given social and political order. At the same time, they demonstrate how places of memory are often highly contested spaces in which the authority of the ruling power, and its hegemonic narratives of history, may be called into question. In this introductory article, we highlight key themes at the intersections of memory, place, and power, and consider several areas of emerging interest that have potential to advance critical geographical approaches to memory studies. Reflecting on the case studies discussed in this special issue, we also explore how the spatial, temporal, and political intertwine in the production of memoryscapes that may appear fixed and frozen for all time-especially when literally cast in stone-but often experience change in both subtle and profound ways.
... Change in political regimes has often been accompanied by attempts to reinforce hegemony by changing the toponymic landscape, particularly in post-colonial, post-socialist, and post-Apartheid contexts. Where the critical toponymies literature has examined 'bottom-up' or popular responses to such 'toponymic cleansing' (Rose-Redwood et al., 2010), it has focused on resistance to renaming (e.g., Alderman, 2002Alderman, , 2003Alderman & Inwood, 2013;Alderman & Reuben, 2020;Kearns & Berg, 2002;Rose-Redwood, 2008b;Wideman & Masuda, 2018). Opposing the actions of the state is less common in the Chinese political context compared to some of the contexts in which the critical toponymies literature has analysed resistance, but there are nonetheless some examples of resisting renaming in China, such as public responses to the renaming of the city of Huizhou as Huangshan (Ji, 2018). ...
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This paper advances theoretical developments in critical toponymies through focusing on the renaming of South China Sea Islands and everyday use of names by fishermen in Hainan, China. Undergoing a series of historical renamings associated with European colonial influences and claims of sovereignty by the Chinese state, multiple official and vernacular toponymic systems co-exist and operate in complex ways in everyday life. By focusing on complexities in the everyday usage of these co-existing toponymic systems, this paper develops calls in the literature to engage with a more complex understanding of the operation of power in naming beyond a focus on a power/resistance dichotomy. Whilst acknowledging the role of political power, it develops this by analysing how renaming is also influenced by social and demographic change, developments in other areas such as heritage, and technological changes, which have received scant attention in the critical toponymies literature. The paper explores the naming of oceanic features to shift the focus of analysis away from the literature’s concentration on cities and street names. Overall, the paper argues for a more nuanced and diversified approach to analyzing critical toponymies.
... Tekuatepeliu and kaishtulanut thus speak with the same voice, and together they translate a complex universe of encounters and care, both for humans and for the tools necessary to their daily life. Just as they were once a landmark on the road to the North, a signpost guiding people as they moved through the territory, these names keep transmitting information relating to this very specific place, its particular meaning and function (Alderman & Rose-Redwood, 2020). They are the vehicle of 'what it is that a particular landscape may be called upon to "say," and what, through the saying, it may be called upon to "do"' (Basso, 1988, p. 102). ...
Uamashtakan. Tekuatepeliu. Manishtikaushipu. Uashaupishkau. Manikuakanishtiku. I am a river of names. Like countless waterways around the world, I have been given a single official denomination—Manicouagan—by the State through the colonial renaming of land. Though the word Manicouagan derives from the original language of my People, the Pessamiulnuat (Innus of Pessamit), it carries a very small piece of my whole history and speaks with a monolithic voice. As an ancestral route connecting families to their hunting territories, each of my swirls and back eddies has something to say, witnesses to a longstanding and ongoing narrative. Going back to the meanings, practices, stories, and values that some of my People's denominations still bear, I wish to make myself heard differently from the voices that are both theirs and mine.
... This means that, inter alia, critical toponymy scholars need to re-situate themselves -specifically those from privileged, non-subaltern backgrounds -to realize and emphasize the reparative possibilities of place naming. They must do more than offer scholarly critiques and remain neutral onlookers of naming struggles by, for instance, instituting a model of solidarity in which they create "workspaces" in their classrooms, research groups, and lived communities to support toponymic activism and socially responsible commemoration (see also Alderman & Rose-Redwood, 2020). They should also cooperate with governmental and non-governmental women's empowerment and activist agencies in their respective localities. ...
This short commentary scrutinizes the contemporary toponymic phenomenon of gendered street naming in the global South with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa’s cities. It reveals the problematic prevalence of masculine street names in comparison to feminine names in the region’s urban spatialities and provides a comparative glimpse into similar realities in the global North. The paper offers explanations for this phenomenon as a consequence of the (post-)colonial experiences of many Southern cities and reports on the socio-political implications of this problem. Our recommendation on a toponymic de-colonization in terms of gender is part of a broader aspiration for more just and inclusionary urban management policies, better accommodated to the challenging realities of urban life in Southern cities.
The worlds we inhabit tell stories, stitched into the material and symbolic representations of the past that comes to define the features of our places. These stories are never neutral, anchored as they are in the intentional (re)presentation of a racialized white, masculine, and settler story as “our” story. Indeed, space, as an ostensibly neutral platform for storytelling, is called into service of settler-state anxieties to write itself into every (spatial) corner of our lives. This paper takes up this issue by theorizing how the street naming practices of settler communities write into everyday life a settler collective memory that, as a consequence, both shapes space into (settler) place and powerfully intervenes in individual (student) geographic consciousness. By way of vignettes woven throughout theoretical considerations as examples of everyday encounters, I unpack what it means to think of the language of invaded place with greater critical intention as an example of how walking through space can become a pedagogical method, with a focus on detailing what it might mean to support learner engagement with the names that make their communities coherent and media of normalized colonial memory.
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This research makes a didactic proposal to Primary School teachers regarding the use of toponymy, based upon three field trips to Huerta de Valencia (Spain). Given the scarcity of scholarly work at the nexus of pedagogy, toponymy and geography, this study significantly contributes to the teaching of geography through toponymy based on field trips, but it also serves as a paradigm for the wider teaching community, as it may be applied to other areas. El objetivo de este trabajo es presentar una propuesta didáctica para el profesorado de Educación Primaria sobre el uso de la toponimia a partir de 3 salidas de campo en la Huerta de València (España). Ante la falta de trabajos sobre educación, toponimia y geografía en el área de estudio, este trabajo aportará significativamente al conocimiento sobre la didáctica de la geografía con el uso de salidas de campo en relación con la toponimia, pero también servirá de paradigma para la comunidad docente, ya que podrá aplicarlo a su territorio de referencia.
This study examines the problem of the development of students’ universal competencies at Russian universities related to the diversity of cultures and the ability to enhance intercultural communication in professional field and everyday communication. The development of this competency is significantly influenced by the content of the cultural memory of students. Modern universities are a multicultural space where various persons and communities with different collective cultural memory interact. The objective of the study is to identify the functional features of the students’ cultural memory at Russian universities that are historically characterised as a multicultural space. The main method involved focus groups and a theoretical interpretation of the data obtained. The results obtained from two focus groups of students from several universities located in the Krasnoyarsk Territory are presented. The total number of focus group participants was 14 bachelor’s and master’s degree students. The focus groups consisted of students belonging to the first- and second-generation migrants from among ethnocultural groups with high ethnodemographic dynamics in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The study showed the need for special programme activities for adaptation and integration of students belonging to the second-generation of migrants into the multicultural university community
The announcement by the government of Zimbabwe on 21 November 2019 that a good number of streets were to be renamed motivated this study. We argue that the postcolonial urban landscape in Zimbabwe is increasingly becoming a space of contestation regarding renaming streets. Street renaming in Zimbabwe emphasizes the struggle against coloniality and a search for resilience and purpose among those in power. The leaders seek to use the renaming process to show their contribution to the national struggle and patriotism by honouring some fallen heroes and heroines. However, in a country characterised by hyperinflation, corruption, and fuel and cash shortages, such an emphasis has been deemed (by many ordinary citizens) a cover-up for failure to address glaring challenges. The narrative contributes to the literature on place names as ‘spaces of contestation,’ as street names are used to embody a particular narrative related to the postcolonial government’s history. The renaming provides another ‘soft layer’ of the urban landscape, which is about heritage and less of history.
Black thought has long emphasized the vital importance of aesthetic politics to Black activism and community life. Recent scholarship has emphasized the importance of analyzing the aesthetic geographies of festivals. In this paper, we extend the discussion of festival geographies through theoretical engagement with Black thought and empirical engagement with Black parades in the US South. Specifically, we use an examination of the aesthetic geographies of Florida A&M University’s Marching 100 to think through the relationships between form and improvisation, performance and belonging and affirmative aesthetic politics. Following Black scholars, we show that Black aesthetic geographies work to counter the normative containment and erasure of Black spatiality in a white supremacist society. We demonstrate that Black aesthetic practices act as a refusal of this containment and erasure, disrupting normative geographies of whiteness and asserting Black socio-spatial presence and relations of belonging that affirm Black life.
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Responding to rising social tensions and ongoing theoretical and political changes in the study of geography, we advocate for greater operationalizing of anti-racism pedagogies within the field. Such pedagogies undermine long-standing geographic knowledge systems that marginalize and misrepresent people of color while also distorting and misinforming the worldviews of a White society. Drawing from classroom successes and uncertainties, five educators explore the anti-racist possibilities of geography education as a form of “regional storytelling.” Regions, one of geography’s formative constructs, play a central role within popular and academic understandings of racial differences and identities. Making exclusionary moral judgements about regions and associated populations has long been at the core of the colonization and racialization process. Contributors use reflexive storytelling – understood here as both a classroom instructional method and a way to create supportive spaces for educators to reflect on their praxis – to identify and discuss strategies for carrying out anti-racist, regionally-based teaching, the instructional decisions and challenges faced in the classroom, and perceptions of student response and anxieties. We also reflect on how the wider regional and racial positionalities of teachers and students shape the way an anti-racist pedagogy is enacted, interpreted, and realized within the higher education classroom.
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A number of U.S. universities are embroiled in debates over the long-time commemoration and valorization of white supremacy through the campus landscape. Recognizing place naming as a legitimate political arena, activists have called for—and in some instances succeeded—in removing from university buildings the names of historical figures shrouded in racial controversy. However, for the broader public and even sympathetic higher education officials, there is a lack of understanding about why these demands are important and even less recognition about the violence that racially insensitive place naming inflicts on the belonging of marginalized groups. Instead, the renaming of campus landscapes is understood as merely an act of political correctness and thus campus authorities have offered uneven and incomplete solutions in the name of progressive reform. Applying recent innovations in race and memory studies, specifically the ideas of " wounded " places and " memory-work, " we situate ongoing university place naming controversies in a critical context. Specifically, we build upon the recent work of law scholar Stephen Clowney and discuss the opportunities and challenges of developing a policy of landscape fairness that recognizes the power of place to transmit ideas about racial power across generations and the right of critics to challenge dominant historical narratives.
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Geographic place and socio-political space are salient in struggles for justice in education. Social geography provides a frame for discussing the relationship between names of schools and narratives of race, place, and justice (racial and spatial) in the US South. Featured herein is an illustrative case of how a school named after an African American man is implicated in the construction and preservation of cultural memory through its namesake status and the curriculum. In the literature, commemoration policies are often ignored as little points of support that codify the processes of deliberation and decision-making that guide how school buildings are named. Commemoration policies from two school districts are juxtaposed to show the varying levels of attention each gives to diversity and culture. The notion of curriculum leadership advanced is characterized by socio-political consciousness about how racial justice is linked to spatial justice and how both are mediated by practices, policies, and politics around the naming of places. This discussion has implications for other sites of cultural memory whose futures are increasingly governed by market demands, such as commodification and commemoration, rather than the legacies of humanitarians.
This article examines the impact of African American migration into Kansas City, Missouri, on the city's segregated school system in the 1940s and early 1950s. Substantial increases in the number of African American elementary school-age children produced chronic overcrowding in the segregated black schools, which was not easily relieved due to the legal requirement to operate racially segregated schools. In order to address the crowding, the school district was compelled on four occasions in the late 1940s and early 1950s to convert an entire school from white use to African American use. In each case, the school district took the symbolic step of changing the name of the school so that it was clearly identifiable as a school for African American students. The school district's practice of renaming schools coded those schools by race and further signaled that the surrounding area had become a black neighborhood.
In this article we advance geographies of commemoration by focusing on digital screens, a common element of museum displays and other official memory sites, arguing that screens are crucial in how people not only think, but feel in and about such places. As a part of the ‘texture’ of memory sites, we will discuss how understandings of the content displayed on digital screens can mingle with screens’ material and immaterial qualities to constitute a range of powerful ways of ‘feeling’ this texture, in affective, material and sensory terms. By interrogating the experience of visitors to the Camp des Milles, an official French national memory site, we will consider how digital screens can thicken the experience of such sites by framing them as bodily and intimate – but also how encounters with such technologies can disappoint, disrupt or puncture the atmospheres of such sites, and draw out feelings of frustration or annoyance that might pull against the official aims of such places. We use in-depth visitor accounts to show how digital screens afford affective resonances for visitors and intensely shape how state-sponsored histories are encountered, understood and felt.
Informed by recent struggles over schooling, this article proceeds from the premise that education is a deeply geographic and urgently political problem increasingly engaged by a wide range of scholars and activists. We argue that the current political moment demands increasing geographic attention to the confluence of social processes that shape schooling arrangements. We contend that this attention also must address how people involved in collective action understand and enact alternatives and how these mobilizations may articulate with other social movements. Although existing geographers of education have studied schooling in relation to other processes such as gentrification and citizenship, we argue that centering schooling as an object of study can enliven important disciplinary conversations. In light of these arguments, we call on geographers to advance geographic scholarship on education by creating a cohesive critical geographies of education subfield. Drawing from intensified interest in the geographies of education, this subfield can contribute to broader geographic debates by centering schooling in theory generation, rather than only studying education as a site of test cases for existing geographic theories. Given this call, this review highlights how the existing literature on schooling signals the potential of geographic work on education and marks considerations for the development of future research.
Geographic scholarship in critical toponymy has highlighted the importance of place naming as a form of discursive power within processes of urbanization. This paper builds on such literature and advances a novel theory of toponymic assemblage to interpret findings from a participatory research project in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada. We foreground neighborhood history in the form of a Japanese Canadian enclave and its wartime uprooting and dispossession, and trace the historical antecedents of a resurrected toponymy of “Japantown” that has appropriated and renarrated Japanese Canadian history to facilitate further rounds of dispossession. Using a genealogical method, we highlight three “moments” of Japanese Canadian uprooting, return, presence, and activism, demonstrating how toponymies are assembled in place in heterogeneous and historically contiguous ways. This approach expands on current research in critical toponymy, offering a novel methodology for exploring the enrolment of toponymy, discourse, and materiality in the formation of place.
This article explores the pedagogical implications of students' embodied and emotional reactions to difficult course material inside and outside of the classroom. Scholarship on teaching typically focuses on dimensions of students' cognitive engagement and development, yet geographical coursework often involves emotionally fraught topics: environmental cataclysm, poverty, inequality, oppression, (ill) health, etc. Instructors who anticipate their students' emotional experiences will be able to better engage with and use these experiences toward learning goals. Some topics may be most effectively taught through emotionally activated learning activities, prompting reflection on the role of visceral learning experiences in higher education.