Coin as Imagined Sovereignty: A Rhetorical Analysis of Coins as a Transhistorical Artifact and an Ideograph in Islamic State’s Communication
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism – February 2020
This paper examines how the monetary economy in violent extremist propaganda serves as rebel governance within the virtual world, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) performing as a state. The concepts of constituency for groups establishes the important link in moving towards levels of governance. Rebel governances and insurgent groups capitalizing on the virtual space, broadcast the governance activities they provide to the international world. The performative elements, the symbolic behavior of statehoods are as important as a legitimizing strategy as activities on ground (Weber, 1998). In this paper, I argue that the spaces beyond the control of states, in this case the digital world, is where the rebel governance of ISIS functions and performs as a state. For that I use the theoretical frameworks of Weber (1998) “Performative States”, Anderson’s (2016) “Imagined Communities”, Scott’s (2008) “Seeing Like a State”. I conducted a content analysis of 2,678 images appearing in issues 1-229 of the Arabic weekly newsletter al-Naba’ (from October 2015 to April 2020) and calculated territorial control of ISIS from Liveuamap’s Isis.liveumap.com (Isis.liveuamap.com, 2020). The monetary content increases as territorial decline increases, and the market and IS coin images were predominantly during the height of territorial decline April – October 2017. I argue that ISIS in order to perform statehood in the virtual space, publicized monetary economics in their messaging content to ensure the global citizenship, the assurance of their economic sovereignty and lastly the Islamist monetary economics defining themselves outside of the Western financial systems. ISIS published monetary economic messaging during times of territorial decline. Even though the overall number of images in al-Naba’ were few, the content and their reassurance of functioning financial systems, serves as a symbolic marker to their global audience. ISIS after their loss of territory, in their media campaigns shifts to reinforcing their caliphate and the unique Islamist content that distinguishes them from Western statehood, monetary economics.