collage, photos of street signs

Reading the Signs: Renaming and transformative processes in urban Rwanda

Research project
Active research
Project size
4,5 million SEK
Project period
2022 - 2024
Project owner
Department of Languages and Literatures

Short description

A sociolinguistic project that combines the research fields linguistic landscape and onomastics with research for development.

Aim of the project

The overall aim of this sociolinguistic project is to identify how recent renaming of streets and the use of the exogenous language English in Rwanda affects citizens who move and navigate in the also physically reconstructed urban space. Naming practices reflect socio-political conditions and can be seen as a manifestation of authority and ideology. This project contributes to a new way of studying political change and power relations in Rwanda. It stresses the role of language in social development, especially in relation to identity and social cohesion.

The project has three specific work packages with interlinked aims: To determine ideologies behind earlier and new naming practices, to establish how naming systems impact on people’s sense of inclusion in Rwandan society, and to highlight and disseminate the voices of those who move in the linguistic landscape. The latter  will be done by developing an interactive map based on a free and collaborative OpenStreetMap that can also be used by educational institutions and organisations in Rwanda.