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Money’s Infrastructures: Blockchain Technologies and the Ecologies of the Memory Bank

RELLA, LUDOVICO (2021) Money’s Infrastructures: Blockchain Technologies and the Ecologies of the Memory Bank. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis takes the emergence of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies for monetary payments as a provocation to investigate infrastructures as the irreducible materiality of money. Increasingly obscured and taken for granted in everyday digitalised interactions, infrastructures are held to be the material condition of possibility for money. Departing from approaches to the social theory of money that privilege either monetary objects or the abstractions of money of account, the thesis demonstrates how infrastructures provide an analytical site where social studies of money and finance and science and technology studies can be fruitfully combined. In particular, the thesis establishes an ecological ontology of money’s infrastructures of memory to capture active forms and dispositions of money infrastructures, and the co-evolution of money infrastructures with their associated milieux. Focused specifically on cross-border payments, the thesis utilises the blockchain and interoperability firm Ripple as a “revelatory case” for investigating the entanglements of matter, meaning, space, desire, and power that pervade all of money’s infrastructures. Analysis is extended in three main directions. First, with reference to recent developments in cross-border payments, money’s infrastructures are shown to produce and inhabit spatialities and chrono-topologies that take four main typological forms – pyramids, rhizomes, platforms, stacks. Second, with reference to the libidinal political economy of the cryptoasset bubble that has built up around applications of blockchain technologies in payments, the materiality of infrastructural ecologies of money is shown to be shaped significantly by enchantment and desires. Third, with reference to remittances as cross-border payments where informal circuits of value transfer are presently being formalised as market opportunities to free hitherto idle assets, money’s infrastructures are shown to be replete with political-economic tensions between interoperability and platformisation and frictionless flows and rent extraction.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Blockchain; Money; Payments; Infrastructure; Cryptocurrency
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Apr 2021 12:42

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