Jumping off from political and humanitarian calls for the abolition of physical banknotes, this talk situates the most recent arguments for a cashless future in the context of the history of money, accounting, and payment technologies. It considers how new technological systems have reopened a political discussion over the nature and function of money and its materiality, while at the same time reflecting back on the affordances of technologies of accounting that would obviate the need for physical currency. The devil is in the material details, however: drawing on the archaeological record and considering the more recent history of technology, from the Automated Clearing House to cryptocurrencies, the talk will question the political ramifications of a cashless future that does not account for the relations of inequality underlying any money form.

Bill Maurer, Ph.D., is dean of the School of Social Sciences and professor of anthropology; criminology, law and society; and law at the University of California, Irvine. An anthropologist, he is one of the world’s leading experts on money’s artifacts and technological systems, from cowrie shells to credit cards. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including most recently, How Would You Like to Pay? How Technology is Changing the Future of Money, and recently edited (with Lana Swartz) Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff. As director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (www.imtfi.uci.edu), which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Maurer coordinates research in over 47 countries on how new payment technologies impact poor people’s well-being. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Vassar College and his master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from Stanford University.

Livestream Link: https://livestream.com/tavco/events/8371626

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