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Meanings of money: The Euro as a sign of value and of cultural identity
Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, Department for Studies of Social Change and Culture, Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden.
2008 (English)In: We Europeans? Media, representations, identities / [ed] William Uricchio, Bristol: Intellect Press , 2008, 1, 123-139 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This comparative study of euro (-) coins and banknotes as symbolic texts and media artefacts looks for changing national and supranational identifications in these official but widespread signs of economic and cultural value. How are facets of a joint European project signified in the common European images and national coin sides? How do they contribute to the shaping of a continentally shared cultural identity, in relation to pre¬vious national currencies? What meanings are shaped by euro money as a medium of transnational identification? Money signifies and transfers economic values. But coins and banknotes are also material artefacts that circulate widely among citizens. As such, they not only communicate a certain amount of abstract exchange value, but also throw other meanings into circulation in daily life. They have to be clearly identifiable in terms of value, nationality, age and authenticity. Produced by the international system of state national banks, they circulate condensed images of national identities and sociocultural value hierarchies through their carefully chosen design. Thus, they are widely spread media communicating conventionalised collective identifica¬tions that reach deep into daily life by being used by virtually everyone on a daily basis. The introduction of the euro in 2001, and its subsequent spread to an increasing number of nations within the European Union, offers a splendid chance to study changes in national identifications on an official level that also reaches deep into the wallets of daily life. How has this chance to contribute to redefining a shared European future been used by various actors? What meanings can be discerned on the faces of these money signs, and how are they understood by states and citizens across Europe? A close reading is made of these signs of economic and cultural value, in relation to current public discourses of national and post-national identity, and to ideas on money and cultural identity from Simmel, Benjamin, Habermas and others. Comparisons are made between value levels, between countries, and with pre-euro money, to discern value hierarchies, regional and political patterns, and historical changes. The public and political processes that gave birth to the euro designs show how EU institutions, states, economic market actors, designers and citizens interacted to develop new forms of identification across Europe. These micro media of communication and exchange greedily criss-cross national borders, but to what extent and in which ways do they also produce germs of truly transnational identities? Public discourses on the euro design are heavily colonised by the political and economic forces of that national and inter-national bank system through which interacting state bodies regulate the globalising market. Still, they offer a glimpse into the ways in which official identifications presently slide into new shapes. Comparing forms of cultural identification on the euro (a multiple site where identities are represented but also made), potentials and limitations of the project of a transnational European cultural identity are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bristol: Intellect Press , 2008, 1. 123-139 p.
Keyword [en]
money, euro, Europe, nation, identity, design, media, EU
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-44972Local ID: 78812ISBN: 978-1-84150-207-6OAI: diva2:265834
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2013-05-27Bibliographically approved

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Fornäs, Johan
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Faculty of Arts and SciencesAdvanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden
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