Cartographies of Colonial Commemoration: Critical Toponymy and Historical Geographies in Toronto

Bryan Smith


Everyday, I move across a cartography that tells me a story, one that I often don’t consciously listen to, but do learn from. This story, one of colonial dominance, lives on through the markings of place, particularly the toponyms, or place names. In this article, I seek to explore the role of these toponyms in telling a story of place, one that (re)writes my home, Toronto, as a colonized space, one whose geographic and historic intelligibility is made possible through the inscription of place-names that commemorate the European centre. I demonstrate how the banality of colonial geography works in its powerfully subtle ways by taking the reader on an imaginary subway ride, one that travels across a series of toponyms that highlight how the city recites, inscribes and promulgates a story of colonial presence in a largely obscured but simultaneously hyper-visible way. I argue that such colonial story telling through toponymy is a crucial site at which to engage critically.


critical toponymy; historical geographies; colonial cartography

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