In this paper I introduce the concept of the place meme, a ‘unit’ of cultural information about place. Place memes originate in the human brain. Place cells in the hippocampus convert short to long term memory through a repetitive ‘mapping’ of neural clusters, operating according to Edelman’s Theory of Neuron Group Selection (TNGS). I propose an analogous Theory of Toponymic Group Selection (TTGS) in which cultural selection produces first and second order clusters of named places externally constitutive of place memes. Using insights gained from research in northwestern British Columbia, eastern James Bay and Nunavik, Quebec, I examine real examples of culturally selected place memes by focusing on local heritage tourism initiatives. In conclusion I speculate about the role of place memes in indigenous senses of mental health and self, offering some reflection upon possible research directions opened up by a ‘memetics of place.’
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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