Re-branding multiethnicity: Politics of street names and the reinvention of local heritage in the contested public space of Oradea, Romania

Authors: Agnes Eross*, Geographical Institute RCAES Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Topics: Cultural Geography, East Europe, Political Geography
Keywords: public space, street names, monuments, local heritage, Europe, multiethnicity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Ethnically and culturally diverse settlements in Central Eastern Europe often witness local power-struggles along ethnic/linguistic boundaries that centre on the visibility of ethnic groups and minority languages in public space (Brubaker, R., et al. 2006; Dragoman, D. 2011; Kettley, C. 2003; Murzyn, M. 2008). The rivalry on street names and monuments usually re-articulates rhetorics of national identity and conflicting narratives of history on local level contributing to the ethnicisation of public space by settling ethnicity as one of the major considerations in space related local political decisions. The research is based on the case study of Oradea (Nagyvárad), a multi-ethnic town in the Romanian-Hungarian border zone. By introducing the so-called “street-name fight”, a guerilla campaign between 2007-2010 — basing on the analysis of press, interviews, survey and visual data — present paper reveals the mechanism of deals on street-names and monuments invented by local political elites to ensure ethnic minority representation in public space. The aim of the study is to show how the local deals contribute to the reinterpretation of history and heritage in the city, counterbalancing the rather exclusionary national narratives of identity and history. Furthermore, I point to the impact of recent turn in city development policy as it envisions the reinvented multiethnicity of Oradea as a marketable city-label in tourism. The question arises: whether heritagisation of local history and multhiethnicity might serve as mitigation strategy of the political conflict centred on street names and bilingual street-name signs?

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