The Material Value of Flags: Politics and Space in Northern Ireland

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This article examines the way in which the availability of cheaply produced polyester flags has changed the symbolic landscape in the public places of Northern Ireland. The “tradition” of flying flags to express identity is common throughout the world and an important feature of an annual marking of residential and civic spaces in Northern Ireland. Such displays have been a consistent part of the reproduction of political identities through commemoration and the marking of territory. However, the availability of cheaply produced textiles has led to a change in the way the displays take place, the development of a range of new designs and helped sustain the control of areas by particular paramilitary groups. It highlights how the “symbolic capital” of the national flags can be used by different social groups having implication on the status and value of the symbol.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-91
Number of pages15
JournalReview of Irish Studies in Europe
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2018


  • symbols
  • Northern Ireland
  • Flags
  • Identity
  • Material culture
  • public space
  • shared space
  • Peace Processes


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