Politics of street names and the reinvention of local heritage in the contested urban space of Oradea
Ethnically and culturally diverse settlements in Central and Eastern Europe often witness local power-struggles along ethnic/linguistic boundaries that may centre on the visibility of ethnic groups and minority languages in public space (Kettley, C. 2003; Brubaker, R. et al. 2006; Murzyn, M.A. 2008; Dragoman, D. 2011; Csernicskó, I. and Máté, R. 2017). The majority ethnic group, as the possessor of power is in a more favourable position to control and/or limit the access of minorities to be visually present in the cityscape. The aim of this paper is to show (1) how the public space is re-structured and ethnicised by politics and practices of street naming; and (2) how the contestation over public space contributes to the evolvement of alternative city-text. The research was carried out in Oradea/Nagyvárad, a multi-ethnic town in the Romanian-Hungarian border zone. After describing the spatial features and effects of contestation over street names, based on the analysis of press, interviews and survey data the research shows how the local political deal, the evolved individual/minority coping strategies, and the recent interest in tourism development have contributed to the reinvention of local heritage. Finally, looking at the intensified interest towards local heritage (on behalf of both local government and minority politicians) the question arises: whether heritage might enhance the dissolution of the ongoing conflict centred on street names?
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