The role of street names in the past and in the present
Living on Martin Luther King Street or on George Washington Avenue is not the same thing, and Deirdre Mask knows this well. The London-based American writer has dedicated most of her recent life studying the history behind the street names and the importance of living on a road that has an address. In conversation with the anthropologist Andrea Staid in the picturesque Palazzo della Ragione, Mask explained the starting point for the first draft of The Address Book: Internet research about some people living in West Virginia who didn’t want to have a street name to avoid the government.From here, Mask conducted wider research that led her to discover places, like the Indian slums, where there are practical and spiritual reasons behind street names, and others, such as South Africa, where the government refused to give names to roads in black neighborhoods. However, the key point of her book, as Mask explained, is to state how street names can reflect changes in ways of thinking, as was the case in a city of Florida where three street names bearing the names of Confederate generals were replaced with the names hope, freedom and liberty. As Staid added, people can also identify themselves with the character and concept of names of the street where they live. Black Lives Matter Avenue in New York is a clear example of it. Mask ended the event by saying that street names never just provide information about us, they are a part of who we are.