Beyond its original purposes of trade and military power, currency is also important as a means of communication through art (Mudd 13). Eric Hobsbawm’s (1983) essay on mass production and the nationalist tradition outlines the extensive government initiatives to “cultivate the allegiance of citizens by instilling in them a sense of collective identity centered around nationalist images of a common past and culture” (Helleiner 1411).
State-issued currency is a visible public medium through which the imagery of national identity and shared cultural heritage is defined and emphasized through a conscientious and careful articulation of national identity. Benedict Anderson suggests that the primacy of capitalism is strongly linked to the origins of national consciousness (37). Print languages laid the basis for national consciousnesses by creating unified fields of exchange and communication, and giving a new fixity to language that shaped the subjective idea of the nation (44-5). Historical imagery, reminding and teaching citizens of key events, personalities, and landmarks in the nation’s history, were instrumental in the construction of national identity in most countries (Helleiner 1412).
This presentation showcases a few of the emergent currencies post 1991 from Europe and Africa. Each slide contains a note of national currency with a brief description of the image and its relation to that country’s pre-imperial or post-revolutionary identity.Works Cited
*See References slide for full bibliography
Helleiner articulates five ways national currencies can foster national identity: 1) they provide an effective vehicle for nationalist imagery that aims to construct a sense of collective tradition and memory; 2) national currencies act as a common medium of social communication that may facilitate communication and encourage similar frameworks of thought; 3) collective monetary experiences bolster the feeling of community membership as a shared fate; 4) currencies can be associated with a sense of popular sovereignty; 5) currencies can be linked to the kind of quasi-religious faith often associated with nationalism (1430-31).