The death of the author in the streetscape of Ankara: A Barthesian intervention into critical toponymy

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Approval Date: 2020

Student: Doğuş Düzgün



In this thesis I use the post-structuralist textual theory of Roland Barthes that is known as ‘the death of the author’ in order to explain the politics of street names. Barthes argued that in the literary texts author cannot fix the meaning as it is the readers who produce the meaning. In a similar way, I argue that the streetscape is a polysemous text in which the meaning is produced by readers (everyday users) rather than authors (the political elites that officially determine the street names). Implication of this argument in terms of power relations is that in the streetscape there is no any hierarchical relation between the ‘weak’ masses and ‘powerful’ political elites. In fact, in the last several decades many critical toponymists showed that the political elites do not have an absolute authority on the production of meaning in the streetscapes. Yet, by focusing only on the cases of the popular rejection of official place names they also re-produced the dualisms of ‘powerful-weak’ and ‘hegemony-resistance’. In order to completely transcend these dualisms, I show that the plurality of meaning is not an exception but a general characteristic in the streetscape. I demonstrate my arguments by using the streetscape of Ankara with a special focus on social media posts on the renaming of Nevzat Tandoğan Street as Olive Branch Street in 2018.