Rename and resist settler colonialism: Land acknowledgments and Twitter’s toponymic politics

  • Carrie Karsgaard University of Alberta
  • Maggie MacDonald University of Toronto
  • Michael Hockenhull IT University of Copenhagen
Keywords: digital methods, critical toponymy, settler colonialism, twitter, land acknowledgments, decolonization, social media

Abstract

Connected with various resurgent and decolonizing projects, Canada has seen a surge of renaming and Indigenous land acknowledgement, which draw attention to Indigenous territories that have been overwritten through colonial naming practices. While renaming practices and land acknowledgments are contested for having merely representational effects, they may also be linked with decolonizing efforts. Our paper explores subversive (re)naming practices afforded by the free-form location identifying function on Twitter’s user profiles. It then draws a connection to issue-alignment in relation to the contested Trans Mountain pipeline as a means of considering to what extent toponymic selection is linked with actual issue alignment within the colonial context of resource extraction in Canada. We apply a mixed methods approach, based in digital methods that work with Twitter’s user profile location category. We extend our analysis through a qualitative reading of key subsets of the Twitter data, using a grounded theory approach to identify prevalent themes. In keeping with the anti-colonial nature of the tweets, we resist colonial categorization of the data and instead share an “un-typology” of Twitter toponyms, which we then connect to various expressions of anti-pipeline positioning. These mixed methods help us explore the entanglement of representational toponymic significance, infrastructural, in relation to the platform and the colonial nature of geolocational regimes online, and grounded, in relation to issue expression regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Published
2021-01-08
How to Cite
Karsgaard, C., MacDonald, M., & Hockenhull, M. (2021). Rename and resist settler colonialism: Land acknowledgments and Twitter’s toponymic politics. First Monday, 26(2). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i2.11454