Publication Search

Olma, Nikolaos

The Collective Image of the City

Informal Taxis and the Production of Vernacular Toponyms in Tashkent, Uzbekistan


City & Society / AnthroSource, 35, 2

p. 101-111


Decades of politically motivated place renaming have prompted the population of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to adopt a bottom-up vernacular toponymic register, wherein locations are indicated in relation to points of reference known as orientiry. Orientiry take cues from the built environment and are generated through the population's affective pluritemporal engagements with the city. Accordingly, they can take different material forms, but they can also be dropped or discursively replaced by new ones situated temporally or physically closer to the population's everyday experiences. This article argues that orientiry are kept more or less coherent by the need for Tashkent dwellers to indicate locations to their fellow residents and especially to Tashkent's informal taxi drivers. Orientiry are proliferated and standardized by the exchange of environmental information that occurs between driver and passenger as they find their way through various places and temporalities. The article demonstrates how a combination of cognition, affect, and social stimuli shapes wayfinding in Tashkent, revealing the city's orientiry as a representation of a collective image of the city—an assemblage of individual mental maps that overlap, interfere, contradict, and exclude one another and yet remain functional by similar habitual use of the city.