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Building on broader developments in critical social theory, geographers have made significant strides in explicating the assumptions, motivations, and values involved in place naming. This has led to an emphasis on understanding the processes involved in the inscription, subversion, and revision of place names. Despite the increasingly sophisticated approaches found in place-name studies, the field of toponymy occupies a relatively minor position in academic geography. There are varied and complex reasons for this marginality, but perhaps the most salient critique is that place-name research has been slow to engage broader developments in geographic and social theory.


This article first appeared in, Hagen, Joshua (2011) Theorizing Scale in Critical Plane-Name Studies, Acme: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 10:1, 23-27. The final publication is available at

Reprinted with permission.