Banal Naming, Neoliberalism, and Landscapes of Dispossession

  • Lawrence D. Berg Center for Social, Spatial & Economic Justice, University of British Columbia
Keywords: politics of naming, primitive accumulation, dispossession, neoliberalism, place naming, capitalism, social order, racial order


My objective in this brief intervention essay is to illustrate the way that the ostensibly symbolic politics of naming are imbricated in the very material politics of accumulation by dispossession. I make these links by illustrating the historical and ongoing connections between what Karl Marx (1976 edn.: 873-876) termed “primitive accumulation” and what David Harvey (2005) calls “accumulation by dispossession” and linking this, in turn, to the fetishization of these social relations in neoliberalized processes of naming places. My argument, in somewhat schematic terms, is thus that neoliberalization is caught up in specific forms of naming that symbolically and materially solidify current (and historical) processes of capitalist accumulation by dispossession. In this sense, neoliberalism is not merely an economic and social order but is also part of a racial order (Goldberg, 2009) in which original primitive accumulation involved the dispossession of Aboriginal peoples and their continued marginalization through “ongoing colonialism.” Naming places thus becomes caught up in the (re)production of wider processes of fetishization that efface the social relations of dispossession that underlay modern property relations. To date, much work on the politics of naming places has focused on the contested character of such naming practices (see Berg and Vuolteenaho, 2009). In this case study of Vernon, BC, Canada, I focus instead on the way that more banal and uncontested forms of naming help to hide sociospatial relations of dispossession.
How to Cite
Berg, L. (1). Banal Naming, Neoliberalism, and Landscapes of Dispossession. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 10(1), 13-22. Retrieved from