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Flags, society and space: Towards a research agenda for vexillgeography

Medway, D and Light, D and Warnaby, G and Byrom, J and Young, C (2018) Flags, society and space: Towards a research agenda for vexillgeography. Area. ISSN 0004-0894

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Abstract

The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). © 2018 The Authors. Area published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). This paper proposes that flags are an important but under-theorised aspect of geographical inquiry and seeks to outline a new field of “vexillgeography,” which critically embraces the spatiality and performativity of flags. We start by outlining the potential of semiotics (and geosemiotics) to further our understanding of flags, focusing on iconic, indexical and symbolic modes of representation in relation to flag design and the marking of territories and boundaries. In so doing, we highlight the importance of flags in the ordering of both Cartesian and relational space. We then examine flags from a performativity perspective, emphasising their role as actants within wider assemblages, and the everyday affective and emotional responses to flying (and viewing) flags. We conclude by outlining an agenda for critical research into vexillgeographies, to explore the multiplicity of ways in which flags (or flag assemblages) can contribute to the construction of spatial meaning.

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