Place Names in Multicultural Societies

  • Thomas Hylland Eriksen University of Oslo


It is not unthinkable that in a not too distant future, citizens of Oslo will have the opportunity to meet for appointments at Salimi Square, to shop for vegetables in Kharian Street, to enjoy their picnics in Rubina Rana Park and to drive to the nearby town of Drammen on Mogadishu Road. Historical change may lead to politically motivated changes in place names, although often slow and uneven, and major upheavals such as revolutions tend to entail a total renovation of the names of streets, parks and other urban fixtures. The names of towns and villages tend to stick more stubbornly. This short essay looks at these three modes, drawing on exam- ples from Tehran, Trinidad and Toronto, eventually relating them ten- tatively to the emergent multiethnic reality in Oslo and the future prospects for place names in the city.