Recent controversies in the United States about the removal of Confederate monuments and the march in Charlottesville brought some symbols of disputed heritage and southern pride into the international spotlight. One of the significant icons of those ideas is that of the Confederate battle flag; commonly, if erroneously, referred to as ‘the Confederate flag’. The flag’s history as a political symbol as well as as an emblem of ‘confederate chic’ and its presence in popular cultural contexts has been well recorded, but outside the United States the flag became a well-used symbol of ‘Elvis, the American South and individual rebellion’ through the European music scenes and to this day remains so.
Much of this presence can be traced to the 1970s rockabilly revival. The confederate battle flag fitted with the themes of rebellion embraced by the Rockabilly Rebs/Rebels. From Ray Campi’s bass with the flag painted on the back to Matchbox’s appearance on Top of the Pops playing Rockabilly Rebel with confederate uniform and the flag as part of the costume and set, the flag became a significant presence in the scene and was read as an identifier of rebelliousness and a celebration of Southern music. (This use of the flag was evident in other areas of popular culture at the time from Smokie and the Bandit to the internationally successful The Dukes of Hazzard television show).
The flag is still in evidence at some events, they can be seen hung in accommodation windows at weekend festivals and at times are paired with other flags which complicate analysis of the motivations of those displaying the flag. A Confederate flag shown beside a ‘Come and Take it’ flag connotes different things than one shows beside a flag memorialising British soldiers from the First World War. For some people the signifiers of the flag go no further than rebellion and rockabilly music; the geographic remove from the United States facilitates this position more that it would in the US.
Anecdotally, the last few years seem to have seen a lessening of the flag’s presence. The evocations of ‘the America and individual rebellion’ are present in other ways, western wear or Sun Records shirts for example. The recent events in North Carolina may hasten a move away from a 'neutral' or passive co-opting of the flag into this current, subcultural context.
A lot of what Paul's saying about the Confederate Flag falls within a critical framework that Southern Studies scholars use to understand the role of southern symbols after World War II. That understanding is framed in terms of the "post-South," i.e., the place the South became during postmodernity, which is to say, Americanized, globalized, and otherwise absorbed, exported, and assimilated into the culture of the rest of the United States and globe, especially at a time when globalization started to run its course. For a more comprehensive introduction to the term, see Martyn Bone's entry for the term "Postsouthern" in _Keywords for Southern Studies_ (2016). This process of divorcing symbols of the South from their historical roots, and particularly the Confederate Flag and other antebullum imagery, could also be viewed as part of a trend that John Egerton calls "The Americanization of the South," which might also be said to entail the "Southernization of the Globe." What I think Paul brings forth with this post, especially in his discussion of the Confederate Flag's appropriation around the globe, are implications of the Southernization of the Globe. I think we spend less time engaging in discussions about the Southernization of the Globe because we, and by "we," I mean Southern Studies scholars like me, prefer to talk about how the monolithic South doesn't *really* exist, especially as it's portrayed in popular media, and that there are exceptions to the rule of blanket conservatism in the US South. This pivot gives us more room to talk about people and texts that aren't all white in our scholarship. However, doing this important work may have created a bit of a blind spot when it comes to noticing how symbols of the American South have been appropriated abroad. Which is why I think that dealing with the Southernization of the Globe -- especially if it can be traced to the insurgent populism (and surprising popularity) of far-right and alt-right political subcultures in Europe -- should be a consideration for everyone thinking about the cultural context of the Confederate Flag today.
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