National identification design, as something pertaining to political concern, can be understood as the embodiment of images of ideological representation in specific supporting elements in an attempt to create and re-create the identity of the citizens. To understand the mechanisms of how Nation States design nationality among their populations it is necessary to know how the State works. It works through a hegemonic process called the Ideological State Apparatus. Simultaneously, the State apparatus of cultural fictions spreads symbolic fables to have a monopoly over cultural norms and discourses. This apparatus requires three main resources to work. These include: an existing common content, the power to institutionalize a chosen interpretation of nationality and a support for the content. Common content, national sentiment or national identity are created and maintained by a hegemonic ideology that rules the State in a historical period. This entire process is permitted because of the social importance of images. The act of seeing, representing, interpreting, imagining and desiring are the sources that give power to images. In addition, the channels that spread nationality discourses are the material culture, images and objects that are sense and information carriers such us public architecture, monuments, statues, the rosette, uniforms, the banknotes, the flag, the shield and mass media.
This process described above, the role of the State as an image and identity designer, is not included in the academic formation of a graphic designer even though they could probably be designers in charge of spreading images of a government and a specific dominant ideology.
For this reason, the main motivation to initiate this research has been to fill a gap that exists in the academic formation of a graphic designer, a formation that makes that professional activity much more related to common sense, creativity and art rather than based on theoretical grounds. In addition, the lack of information on the use of images by the Argentine State, its relationship with national identity and the lack of a comparative semiotic analysis of the different supports and images used in each period of government has been a big motivation to start and finish this research.
The purpose of this research is to understand how images created and spread by the Argentine State from 1810 to 2008 have contributed to the definition of national identity.
For this reason, a case study was developed. It required theoretical assumptions and conceptualizations to guide and support the production of data, information and of the research strategies. Then, to structure and organize this case study the research problem was first established. The research problem was to explore the role of the Argentine State as an identity designer through the use of images and objects from the beginning of the Nation to 2008 with special focus in the analysis of the flag, the banknotes and the shield.
Therefore, the main question asked throughout the research was:
“How does the production of image by the Argentine State contribute to the design of a national identity?”
In order to answer this immense question, many key and minor questions were made which became the objectives or purpose of the research. Besides, in each case, key concepts were useful to create a theoretical /conceptual framework which led to finding the answers.
The questions were
1. How does the State act?
2. How are nationality and national identities constructed by the State?
3. What is collective or national identity?
4. What is the relationship between individual identities and collective or national identities like?
5. What is the role of cultural fictions and myths?
6. What is the role of objects that construct nationality and national identities?
7. How does the State have the power to institutionalize and spread national discourses and the interpretation of nationality?
8. What are the most relevant supports used by the State that structure nationality?
9. How much power do images have to construct nationality and national identities?
10. What gives power to images?
In the Argentine case, the main questions were:
1. How was the Ideological State Apparatus constituted in different historical periods? What kind of dominant ideology, images and supports were associated with each historical period?
2. How were the flag, shield and banknotes used? What kind of nationalistic sentiments were attached and made representative by them throughout history?
3. What were the visual elements or attributes of the flags, shields and banknotes? How were they used and changed in each historical period?
4. What kind of images were used, and what purpose did they serve in banknotes in different historical periods?
As a result of the research, the main findings are that the Argentine State, through the use of different supports and images, is responsible for creating four Argentine identities. They are the European identity, the Nationalist identity, the Worker identity and the Republican identity. In addition, it can be said that there is a symbolic absence in the national representation by the State of inland people, women, children, the provinces and some very popular democratic presidents. In this sense, difference lacks representation. Last, the flag, shield and banknotes are supports and images used throughout the Argentine history to design nationality. However, since the return of democracy in 1983, the shield and banknotes have not been considered and used by the State while the flag is still used to attach national sentiments and identity.
The present work is organized as follows. In chapter 1 the theoretical framework is developed. In chapter 2, the methodology used in the research is shown and explained. In the following chapters a deep analysis of the Argentine case is developed. To begin, in chapter 3, the Argentinean Ideological Apparatus of the State is studied in a historical context, from its origin to 2008. In each ideological state apparatus, the dominant national sentiment, the dominant ideology and the apparatus of cultural fiction utilized is characterized and analysed. The focus is on the use of monuments, architecture, sculptures, stamps, rosettes, army uniforms, mass media and other characteristics pertaining to some of the ideological state apparatus. The shield, flag and banknotes are described but are deeply analysed in the next chapters. Therefore, in chapter 4, there is an analysis of how the Argentine State designs nationality through the use of the flag. At the beginning, a brief history of the role and social importance of the flag and how the state attaches some national sentiment on behalf of the Ideological State Apparatus is presented. Then, there is a semiotic analysis of the Argentine flag for which some tables with information are presented. After that, a history of the changes in the use of colours and the sun made in different Argentine historical periods and its meaning is developed. The chapter ends with some conclusions, illustrations and tables. Then, the Argentine shield in chapter 5 and the Argentine banknotes in chapter 6 are analysed following the same methodology used for flags and they are presented in a similar structure to that developed in chapter 4 of the flag. After that, in chapter 7 the conclusions are presented. The Annex provides tables and a chapter of field notes.