Money’s materiality has recently been re-appraised by the social sciences, by bringing to the fore the vast infrastructure composed of devices, institutions, networks, and standards that allow value to be recorded and moved across space. Infrastructure studies have shown how large technical systems not only facilitate circulation across space, but rather they actively shape and articulate space in topological terms. This paper brings these two debates – the infrastructural materiality of money, and the topological characteristics of infrastructural space – to bear on current developments in cross-border payment infrastructures. Contrary to the impression of seamless global circulation of value, money’s borders, intermediaries, and infrastructures proliferate. This talk draws a comparison between the evolution of cross-border payment systems underpinning sovereign currencies, on one side, and cryptocurrencies and inter-ledger interoperability technologies, on the other. The metaphorical mobilization of the Internet as an imaginary analogy for digital money does not entail the creation of an unproblematically smooth, disintermediated, and horizontal space, and interoperability is not a politically neutral act of bridging networks and infrastructures together. Rather each entails its peculiar hierarchies, forms of resistance, and processes of value extraction.
Ludovico Rella received his BA in International Studies in Florence, Italy and his MA in Global Studies in Lund, Sweden. During his MA he interned at the "Transnational Political Ordering in Global Finance" research group at the Centre for Intercultural and International Studies in Bremen, Germany. He is currently a visiting scholar with the Department of Anthropology at UC Irvine.