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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Institut für Europäische Ethnologie | Termine | Institutskolloquium Wintersemester 2017/2018

Institutskolloquium Wintersemester 2017/2018

Wann 23.01.2018 von 16:00 bis 18:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100) iCal
Wo 311
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Memory in urban spaces: Postsocialist and postcolonial perspectives on the relevance of street names and their renaming.

In particular in times of regime changes we experience the renaming of streets. But also at other times activists lobby for (not) changing street names. In the discussion we look at the relevance of street names and the reasons for (not) renaming them from a postsocialist and postcolonial perspective. Moving between Maputo and Berlin as well as between (post)colonial, (post)nationalsocialist and (post)socialist times, we try to capture the importance of street names and the struggles (not) to change them.

M. Dores Cruz will walk with us through the streets of Maputo, while Joshua Kwesi Aikins will talk about struggles around street names in Berlin. Urmila Goel moderates the discussion.


M. Dores Cruz: Inscribing the city: a topography of memory, nationalism and heritage in Maputo (Mozambique)


The intersection of Karl Marx and Ho Chi Minh Avenues, in Maputo, is perhaps the most photographed street sign in sub-Saharan Africa! Western tourists and expats find Maputo street names sui-generis and amusing, but rarely reflect on their symbolism or the political changes echoed in the naming and renaming of streets. Maputo street names are part of a public iconographic landscape consistent with the socialist ideology that defined national identity in the aftermath of independence. They are at once material, metaphorical and symbolic of memory narrative inscribed in the landscape. However, if after independence there was a flurry of street name change for the main avenues, many small (and not so small) streets were left with their Portuguese designations. More than forty years after independence, Maputo’s topographic memory is a patchwork of colonial names, international socialist and national heroes. A discussion of Maputo’s toponymy raises questions about historically-specific power, culture and identity relations in the context of the utopian socialist revolution of the post-independence period, but also how the elite’s hegemonic culture has imposed top-down a memory that often clashes with the vernacular memory of those who walk the city. My aim is to discuss the experience of Maputo’s urban space as a narrative that merges the past they commemorate, the ideology they materialize with ordinary settings of daily life and the capitalist goals of the 21st century Mozambican elite.




Joshua Kwesi Aikins

M. Dores Cruz