Spatial Symbolism and Politics

  • Mary Dellenbaugh-LosseEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


This chapter goes into depth about spatial symbolism and the new cultural geographical concept of the cultural landscape. Following a detailed examination of the use of semiotics in the interpretation of the cultural landscape, it explicates the landscape features which will be the focus of this study—street names, monuments, urban planning, and architectural styles—and introduces the major terms and concepts which will be used throughout this book. The chapter examines the concept of space and spatial symbols as politicized goods, especially their role in nation-building and national narratives. It closes with an examination of the politicization of space in Eastern Europe during the Cold War and the reactionary stance to these spaces after 1989/1990, setting the stage for a wider discussion of post-socialist cultural landscapes.


Semiotics Post-socialist city Cultural landscape Monuments Street names National narrative 


  1. Alderman DH (2003) Street names and the scaling of memory: the politics of commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr within the African American community. Area 35(2):163–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen J, Massey D, Cochrane A (1998) Rethinking the region. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Altrock U et al (2010) Symbolische Orte in der Stadtentwicklung. In: Altrock U et al (eds) Symbolische Orte. Planerische (De-)Konstruktionen. Reihe Plan. Universität Kassel, Kassel, pp. 7–19Google Scholar
  4. Anderson B (2006) Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Revised. Verso, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Andrusz G, Harloe M, Szelenyi I (eds) (1996) Cities after socialism: urban and regional change and conflict in post-socialist societies. Blackwell Publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Århem K (1998) Powers of place: landscape, territory and local belonging in Northwest Amazonia. In: Lovell N (ed) Locality and belonging. Routledge, London, pp 78–103Google Scholar
  7. Azaryahu M (1997) German reunification and the politics of street names: the case of East Berlin. Polit Geogr 16(6):479–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Azaryahu M (2011) The critical turn and beyond: the case of commemorative street naming. ACME: An Int E-J Crit Geogr 10(1):28–33Google Scholar
  9. Azaryahu M (2018) Revisiting East Berlin and Haifa: a comparative perspective on renaming the past. In: Rose-Redwood R, Alderman D, Azaryahu M (eds) The political life of urban streetscapes: naming, politics, and place. Routledge, New York, pp 56–73Google Scholar
  10. Azaryahu M, Kellerman A (1999) Symbolic places of national history and revival: a study in Zionist mythical geography. Trans Inst Br Geogr 24(1):109–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bartetzky A (2010) A cumbersome heritage: political monuments and buildings of the GDR in reunified Germany. In: Kliems A, Dmitrieva M (eds) The post-socialist city: continuity and change in urban space and imagery. Jovis, Berlin, pp 52–65Google Scholar
  12. Bartetzky A (2017) Rekonstruktion für die Nation in der östlichen Hälfte Europas. Zur Einführung. In: Bartetzky A (ed) Geschichte Bauen: Architektonische Rekonstruktion und Nationenbildung vom 19. Jahrhundert bis heute. Böhlau Verlag, Weimar, pp. 7–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bentley I et al (1985) Responsive environments: a manual for designers. Architectural Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Berg LD, Kearns RA (1996) Naming as norming: “race”, gender, and the identity politics of naming places in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Soc Space 14(1):99–122Google Scholar
  15. Bourdieu P (1992) Language & symbolic power. Polity, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. de Certeau M (1984) The practice of everyday life. University of California Press, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  17. Chandler D (2007) Semiotics: the basics, 2nd edn. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cosgrove D (1998) Social formation and symbolic landscape, 2nd edn. The University of Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  19. Cosgrove D (2004) Landscape and landschaft. In: Lecture delivered at the “Spatial Turn in History” symposium German Historical Institute, February 19, 2004; German historical institute bulletin, vol 35, pp 57–71.
  20. Cosgrove D, Jackson P (1987) New directions in cultural geography. Area 19(2):95–101Google Scholar
  21. Czepczyński M (2008) Cultural landscapes of post-socialist cities: representation of powers and needs. Ashgate, SurreyGoogle Scholar
  22. Czepczyński M (2010) Representations and images of “Recent History”: the transition of post-socialist landscape icons. In: Kliems A, Dmitrieva M (eds) The post-socialist city: continuity and change in urban space and imagery. Jovis, Berlin, pp 16–33Google Scholar
  23. Diener AC, Hagen J (2015) From socialist to post-socialist cities: narrating the nation through urban space. In: Diener AC, Hagen J (eds) From socialist to post-socialist cities: cultural politics of architecture, urban planning, and identity in Eurasia. Routledge, London, pp 1–28Google Scholar
  24. Firat AF, Venkatesh A (1993) Postmodernity: the age of marketing. Int J Res Mark 10(3):227–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foote KE, Toth A, Arvay A (2000) Hungary after 1989: inscribing a new past on place. Geogr Rev 90(3):301–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Geertz C (1973) The interpretation of cultures. Crossroad, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Gellner E (1965) Thought and change. University Of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  28. Georgiou V (2010) Competing discourses in the debate on place names in Cyprus: issues of (symbolic) inclusion/exclusion in orthographic choices. J Lang Polit. John Benjamins Publishing Company 9(1):140–164Google Scholar
  29. Glasco SB (2010) Constructing Mexico City. colonial conflicts over culture, space, and authority. Palgrave Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Gottdiener M (1985) Hegemony and mass culture: a semiotic approach. Am J Sociol 90(5):979–1001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gottdiener M (1995) Postmodern semiotics: material culture and the forms of postmodern life. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  32. Guy S (2004) Shadow architectures: war, memories, and Berlin’s futures. In: Graham S (ed) Cities, war, and terrorism: towards an urban geopolitics. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, pp 75–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hobsbawm EJ (1992) Introduction: inventing traditions. In: Hobsbawm EJ, Ranger TO (eds) The invention of tradition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–14Google Scholar
  34. Horanr M (2002) Images of Australian colonialism : interpretations of the colonial landscape by an Aboriginal historian. In: Stewart H, Barnard A, Omura K (eds) Self- and other-images of hunter-gatherers: papers presented at the eighth international conference on hunting and gathering societies; Senri Ethnological Studies (English Journal of National Museum of Ethnology), vol 60, pp 153–169Google Scholar
  35. Huyssen A (2003) Present pasts: urban palimpsests and the politics of memory. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  36. Jackenkroll K (2008) Städte machen Leute. Ideologische Prämissen, Menschenbild und Funktionen des DDR-Massenwohnungsbaus in den 1960er und 1970er Jahren. Verlag Dr. Müller, SaarbrückenGoogle Scholar
  37. Jordan JA (2006) Structures of memory: understanding urban change in Berlin and beyond. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  38. Lefebvre H (1974) The production of space. Blackwell Publishing, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  39. Light D, Nicolae I, Suditu B (2002) Toponymy and the communist city: street names in Bucharest, 1948–1965. GeoJ 56(2):135–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Löw M (2001) Raumsoziologie. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar
  41. Lynch K (1960) The image of the city. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  42. McBride B (1999) The (post)colonial landscape of cathedral square: urban redevelopment and representation in the “Cathedral City”. New Zealand Geogr 55(1):3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Murdoch J (2006) Post-structuralist geography. A guide to relational space. SAGE Publications Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  44. Nora P (1989) Between memory and history: Les Lieux de Mémoire. Representations 26:7–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pavlaković V (2012a) Contested histories and monumental pasts: croatia’s culture of remembrance. In: Brumund D, Pfeifer C (eds) Monumenti: changing face of remembrance. Belgrade, ForumZFDGoogle Scholar
  46. Pavlaković V (2012b) Contested pasts, contested red-letter days: antifascist commemorations and ethnic identities in post-communist Croatia. In: Šarić L, Gammelgaard K, RaHauge K (eds) Transforming national holidays: identity discourse in the West and South Slavic countries. John Benjamins Publishing Company, London, pp 1985–2010Google Scholar
  47. Pavlaković V (2013) Croatia’s (New) commemorative culture and politics of the past. In: D’Alessio SP, Fanuko N (eds) Avanturekulture: Kulturalni studiji u lokalnom kontekstu. Zagreb, Jesenski i TurkGoogle Scholar
  48. Pugh E (2014) Architecture, politics, & identity in divided Berlin. University of Pittsburgh Press, PittsburghCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rose-Redwood R, Alderman D, Azaryahu M (2010) Geographies of toponymic inscription: new directions in critical place-name studies. Progr Human Geogr 34(4):453–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rose-Redwood R, Alderman D, Azaryahu M (eds) (2018a) The political life of urban streetscapes. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  51. Rose-Redwood R, Alderman D, Azaryahu M (2018b) The urban streetscape as political cosmos. In: Rose-Redwood R, Alderman D, Azaryahu M (eds) The political life of urban streetscapes: naming, politics, and place. Routledge, New York, pp 1–24Google Scholar
  52. Saldanha A, Keynes M (2002) Identity, spatiality and post-colonial resistance: geographies of the tourism critique in Goa. Curr Issues Tourism 5(2):94–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Soja EW (2014) Inside exopolis: views of Orange County (1990–1996). My Los Angeles: from urban restructuring to regional urbanization. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 85–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sörlin S (1999) The articulation of territory: landscape and the constitution of regional and national identity. Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift—Norwegian J Geogr 53(2–3):103–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. De Soto HG (1996) (Re) inventing Berlin: dialectics of power, symbols and pasts, 1990–1995. City Soc 8(1):29–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Strom EA (2001) Building the New Berlin: the politics of urban development in Germany’s Capital City. Lexington Books, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  57. Swart M (2008) Name changes as symbolic reparation after transition: the examples of Germany and South Africa. German Law J 9(2):105–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tölle A (2010) Urban identity policies in Berlin: from critical reconstruction to reconstructing the Wall. Cities 27(5):348–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Torop P (1999) Cultural semiotics and culture. Sign Syst Stud 27:9–23Google Scholar
  60. Weber R, Kreisel W, Faust H (2003) Colonial interventions on the cultural landscape of Central Sulawesi by “Ethical Policy”: the impact of the Dutch Rule in Palu and Kulawi Valley, 1905–1942. Asian J Soc Sci 31(3):398–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Whelan Y (2002) The construction and destruction of a colonial landscape: monuments to British monarchs in Dublin before and after independence. J Hist Geogr 28(4):508–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Winchester HPM, Kong L, Dunn K (2003) Landscapes: ways of imagining the world. Pearson Education Limited, EssexGoogle Scholar
  63. Wodak R (1994) Sprachen und ≫Vergangenheiten < <. In: Wodak R et al (eds) Die Sprachen der Vergangenheiten, Öffentliches Gedenken in österreichischen und deutschen Medien. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, pp 9–38Google Scholar
  64. Yeoh BSA (1992) Street names in colonial Singapore. Geogr Rev 82(3):313–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yeoh BSA (1996) Street-naming and nation-building: toponymic inscriptions of nationhood in Singapore. Area 28(3):298–307Google Scholar
  66. Young C, Light D (2001) Place, national identity and post-socialist transformations: an introduction. Polit Geogr 20(8):941–955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zukin S (1993) Landscapes of power: from Detroit to Disney world. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations