Street Renaming, Symbolic Capital, and Resistance in Durban, South Africa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


In early 2007 the African National Congress majority within the local government authority of Durban, South Africa, approved two phases of a street renaming process, which culminated in the renaming of over one hundred prominent streets after various anticolonial and antiapartheid ‘struggle heroes’. The process led to an unprecedented degree of public attention and debate, expressed through a range of arguments and symbolic gestures, and local state representatives responded by casting this opposition in terms of ‘countertransformation’. This paper examines the Durban case with a critical analytical perspective that sees acts of place naming through the heuristic frames of ‘text’, ‘arena’, and ‘performance’, drawing attention to the complex spatial and material dynamics that attend acts of symbolic transformation and resistance. It contributes to theoretical discussions surrounding “naming as symbolic resistance”, by arguing that a performative conception of symbolic capital and resistance may aid our understanding of naming processes in contested memorial landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-328
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Early online date1 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • street renaming
  • symbolic capital
  • symbolic politics
  • resistance
  • Durban
  • South Africa


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