Wednesday, August 25, 2021

World’s Oldest Known Coin Mint Found in China

The 2,600-year-old site produced highly standardized “spade money,” possibly on government orders

Radiocarbon dating suggests the workshop began minting operations
between 640 and 550 BCE (H. Zhao et al. / Antiquity, 2021)

Bill Maurer in Smithsonian Magazine, Aug. 9, 2021

Archaeologists in China have found what they say is the world’s oldest known coin manufacturing site. … Bill Maurer, an anthropologist [professor of anthropology & director of the Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion] at the University of California Irvine who was not involved in the new research, tells National Geographic’s Jillian Kramer that the discovery of the coins together with the molds used to make them is highly unusual. Ancient coins are often discovered in hoards far removed from the sites where they were minted, making it difficult to date them.

For the full story by Livia Gershon, please visit

Thursday, July 29, 2021

‘No cash, no ritual’: the intersections between cash shortages and ritual enactment in north-western Zimbabwe

By guest blogger Joshua Matanzima, La Trobe University


This article examines the impact of the ‘cash crisis’ bedevilling Zimbabwe since mid-2016 on the enactment of the Masabe ceremony within the BaTonga community, (Sinakatenge Chiefdom, Eastern Binga, North-west Zimbabwe). The article argues that the cash crisis has negatively affected Masabe ritual processes. The paper argues that traditional ceremonies have in contemporary times adopted use of ‘cash’ to facilitate their conduct. Hence, the liquidity crisis resulted in decreased cash in circulation has thus witnessed ceremonies being postponed, delayed or even avoided. In the quest to further understand the negative consequences of cash crisis on ritual engagement, the study analyses BaTonga traditional culture and religious practices. It highlights the importance of religion and ritual in fulfilling individual and societal needs and discusses how disruptions in ritual engagement can affect the psychological needs of individuals or the integration and cohesion of the society/group. The study utilizes cases from BaTonga villages in Sinakatenge Chiefdom. Oral testimonies were ethnographically collected from BaTonga villagers pertaining to the challenges being faced in conducting the Masabe ceremonial practices.

Figure 1. Researcher and local informants: women holding their smoking pipes. 

Field Notes

In 2017, I conducted ethnographic research among the BaTonga speaking people of Sinakatenge Chiefdom, north-western Zimbabwe. Sinakatenge is part of Binga Rural District. It lies along the margins of the nation-state at the Zimbabwe-Zambia border. The research examined the Masabe (alien) spirits ritual process. The Masabe ritual process is the means by which an alien spirit possessing a victim and causing illness is made to manifest itself and then depart the body of the victim, restoring the possessed person to health. Masabe possession as an ‘organized cult of affliction which addresses itself to the individual instead of the community’. Masabe can take over and speak through human vehicles and causes sickness to its victim. Masabe have desires which are made manifest through their victims and are pacified through a dance performance in which the victim enacts these desires. The research involved participant observations and semi-structured interviewing.  I attended a total of 5 Masabe ritual ceremonies and interviewed 24 elders, both men and women, regarding the Masabe ritual process. The centrality of ‘money’ in the entire process was emphasized by the elders interviewed and formed part of my personal observations. 

At a time when this research was conducted Zimbabwe faced serious economic crises characterized by high unemployment, high inflation, food shortages and cash crises. Many Masabe ritual ceremonies were delayed, procrastinated, and even avoided due to the costs involved and challenges encountered in purchasing the material required for the ritual to be successfully enacted. The material required for the Masabe ritual ceremony includes a black cloth, beads and black goat, as well as sugar, mealie meal, sorghum, and yeast for beer brewing. In the absence of these items the Masabe ritual ceremony cannot be enacted. Consequently, the affected families often delay, procrastinate, and, at worst, avoid conducting these ceremonies. 

Following the early to mid-2000s liquidity crunch, in 2009, the Zimbabwean economy was dollarized. Dollarization meant resorting to the use of the US dollar as a result of local currency devaluation. Dollarization helped reduce inflation rates and also stabilise the economy. However, from 2013 cash shortages re-emerged and by April 2016, much of the US dollars were reported to be externalized at an alarming rate, thereby causing the cash crisis. In a bid to address this cash crisis, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced ‘Bond Notes’ of 2 USD and 5 USD denominations, and the 1 USD ‘Bond coin’ which were said to be equivalent in value to the real US$2, US$5 and US$1 respectively. These new notes and coins were introduced alongside the increased emphasis on the use of plastic money and Ecocash/OneWallet (mobile phone-based money services, or mobile money) for transactions. Indeed, plastic money and Ecocash/OneWallet proved somewhat effective for those living in urban areas. But it did not have the same impact for those living in marginalised or remote communities. 

Local transactions in Sinakatenge were mainly based on barter trade at the time. Sadly, such materials as cloth, beads and yeast were unavailable in local stores where barter was tolerated. People had to purchase these from urban areas, where either cash or mobile money was required. Sugar was available in local stores, but its price of 3 USD per 2kgs, was steep for the local people, who could not afford the sugar needed for the ceremony. Many, if not all, people in Sinakatenge had no bank cards, were cashless, and had no Ecocash/OneWallet. The unavailability of mobile network coverage in the area discouraged people from owning mobile phones. Thus, the villagers found it difficult for them to purchase these materials needed for the Masabe ceremony. Before the liquidity challenge, purchasing of these items locally and in Gokwe was not a major challenge. The US dollar introduced during the Government of National Unity era had in a way solved inflation and currency devaluation problems.

The Masabe ritual process and costs

At first, the person possessed by Masabe normally is afflicted with ‘illness’ or ‘sickness’. The ‘sick’ person sought clinical medical attention in local clinics where consultation and medication were free of charge. It is the norm that every sick person must seek clinical medical attention before visiting bun’anga (traditional healer). However, some people were referred to hospitals in Gokwe or Binga, (which are the nearest town centres), especially when the ‘sickness’ becomes more serious. This, indeed, is done at some significant costs. If the kinsmen of the ‘sick’ person have bank cards or mobile money access, they might purchase and pay for medication using such platforms. But, this is usually expensive to them due to transaction charges. 

Furthermore, if the illness persists, despite modern medication uptake, then the ‘sick’ person is taken to traditional healers. Traditional healers also require payment, which also now is in the form of cash whether the Masabe is diagnosed or not. The ‘sickness’ is thus considered to be the ‘arrival’ of the Masabe which in this case is only diagnosed by traditional means than modern systems. Once the Masabe spirit discloses its identity through the traditional healer it awaits a performance to be held for it so that it manifests itself.

The second step is, after the ‘sickness’ has been found to be Masabe related, when beer is brewed. Beer brewing for Masabe ceremony is done by women from the possessed person’s matrilineage. This is so because the society is a matrilineal. The day at which sorghum is soaked in water, the possessed person is supposed to commence sleeping in a chidumba (a house made of poles and grass) until the process of beer brewing is over. The construction of the chidumba requires labour and meeting the costs of gathering the needed construction material, such as poles, grass and stones. To hire the labour for construction and gathering building material needs money. In many cases, these labourers demand cash rather than goods such as grain, soap, salt and so on. So, the kinsmen of the possessed usually wait until they obtain cash to pay for the material and constructors, thereby prolonging the duration of the illness of the victim. Beer for mizimu (ancestors) and the possessed person is brewed in a small pot separate from bigger containers (in which that of attendees is brewed). This is so because the beer for mizimu does not have yeast added into it, whereas that of the invited guests needs yeast. The explanations for putting and not putting yeast on the two different containers were not quite apparent. Sugar is also added in the beer.


Figure 2. An old woman beer brewing.

Purchasing these items from local stores its expensive, thus, villagers opt to purchase the aforementioned items in Gokwe where the prices are generally low. The cost of 2kgs sugar, for example, in Gokwe at the time of the study was US$1.90 and in their local shops was US$3.00. With the prevailing cash shortages purchasing sugar in Gokwe was a major challenge as it also involved transport costs to and from Gokwe. Villagers opted to exchange grain for sugar in local stores where they incurred heavy losses. In this case, barter trade is disadvantageous to the consumer as it is obvious that the measure of goods he/she obtains in return is usually inequivalent to that which he/she would have exchanged. 

Figure 3. Men constructing chidhumba.

When the possessed person sleeps in the chidumba, he/she is expected to ‘sleep’ together with a ‘black’ goat. Every morning the person and the goat are let out, the goat must not forage far from the chidumba. If the goat goes missing that implies that the person is not possessed. When the beer is ready for drinking, local people are invited to attend the Masabe ceremony. The goat is significant during the Masabe ceremony as it is part of the ritual. The purchasing of a goat is thus not necessarily regarded as a major challenge since most families own goats. The possessed person may own goats from which one may be used in the ritual. Those with no goats are bound to purchase one, and acquiring a goat due to cash shortages can be a challenge. The fact that the goat must be black forced those without black goats to either buy or exchange with others for a black one. 

The third and the last stage is the enactment of the ritual ceremony. The Masabe ritual ceremony is enacted during the night. It usually involves drum beating, dancing and traditional beer (Bugande) drinking especially by invited guests. The performance of the ceremony brings together all possessed by that particular form of Masabe to support the new victim as she/he expresses the nature of the possessing force. During the ceremony, the goat is cut on its neck and its blood (musiye) is drained and put into a bowl made of wood. The full goat meat is given to a close friend of the family (sahwira). The possessed is then given the musiye to drink it. It is alleged he/she must not vomit. If he/she vomits it simply means the person is not possessed by Masabe. A senior member of the family appeases to the alien spirits on behalf of the possessed person, at the same time drum (butimbe) beating and singing commences until the Masabe possessing the sick manifests itself. The manifestation of the spirits shows the kind of Masabe the person is possessed with. The possessed must act as the spirit behaves. For example, if one is possessed by a baboon spirit, he or she must behave or act like a baboon during that night. He/she must climb trees and roof tops etc. as baboons do. Thus, although Masabe spirits, like all other Tonga spirits, are considered as formless and bodiless before they afflict a person, they change their identity in the course of the ritual process from an immaterial being into a spirit of “something” which can take a great variety of embodiments. After the Masabe ceremony, the ‘sick’ person will then automatically get healed from her/his illness.

Figure 4. The chidhumba (a temporary shelter for a possessed person).
Case example: In Siachimupa Village, Mukuli’s (who had her Masabe ceremony enacted on the 5th of September 2017) illness, for instance, took about eight months. This period involved people having to consult medical practitioners and local prophets pertaining the cause of disease and its suitable medication. At which, no cause of the disease was detected. The final solution was to visit traditional healers who discovered that she was possessed by a dancing Masabe spirit and for her to be healed a Masabe ceremony was supposed to be held. Traditional healers had discovered this four months before 5 September 2017 when the ceremony was eventually conducted. The 4 months delay was because there were no funds to conduct the ceremony. Here we see the ways by which macro-economic hardships can negatively influence ritual processes. At this time, the Zimbabwean economic downturn coupled with cash crisis made it difficult for her kinsmen to acquire funds to purchase a black cloth, beads, black goat, and ingredients for beer brewing on time. Hence her ‘sickness’ was prolonged. Observing her skin, it had developed blistered. She had significantly lost weight, her legs were swollen and she could not even walk on her own.


Cash crisis in Zimbabwe has not only impacted on the economy and politics of the country, but it has also impacted on ritual enactment. In modern day rituals enactment require materials and money is needed to purchase these material items. In the case of the Masabe ritual- ceremonies discussed above, the purchase of black goats, black cloths, beer ingredients became difficult due to the cash crisis. Purchasing these using mobile and plastic money in the nearest towns of Gokwe and Binga was even more expensive due transaction charges. Due to these challenges Masabe ceremonies were often delayed, procrastinated and avoided. The delay or temporal avoidance of these ceremonies impacted on the possessed individual as well as the entire community. Delays prolonged the sickness of an individual which further impacted on the psychologically. If a person by a ‘water’ spirit, they have the power to predict and intercede for rains; so if their ceremonies are delayed or avoided it means that the community as a whole is affected as it benefits from the person’s rain spiritual forecasts and rainmaking intercessions. 

Link to research article in African Identities, "Religious rituals and socio-economic change: the impact of the Zimbabwe ‘cash crisis’ on the BaTonga Masabe (alien spirits) ceremony."

Photo credit: All photos by author.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Opportunities and Risks of Conversational AI for Credit Unions: Empathy and Intimacy in Automated Financial Customer Service

by Scott Mainwaring, UCI and Melissa Wrapp, UCI, Filene's Center for Emerging Technology

As the use of digital channels continues to grow for credit unions, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technologies provide an opportunity for improved service delivery and the potential for new service offerings such as financial advice.


Conversational AI technologies create new ways for credit unions to serve their members, from providing alternatives to interacting with human agents to creating new channels for more tailored financial services. They provide opportunities to build upon the trust and appreciation members place in credit unions as more human-centered, nonpredatory, and community based. But conversational AI technologies risk invading members’ privacy and being frustrating and opaque.


This exploratory study looks at existing consumer relationships with conversational AI and digital assistants, on one hand; and with credit unions, banks, and other businesses, on the other, to begin to sketch the dimensions of, and provide examples of, points within a “design space” of possible financial digital assistants. While operational hurdles remain high for credit unions to deploy these new technologies, the opportunity will continue to grow in coming years. 

Through ethnographic research with consumers, this report anticipates how credit union members might come to value, or reject, digital assistants. For this exploratory study, we focused on one main question: What are the implications of digital assistant technologies for how members and credit unions could relate to one another in the next five years?

Interviews covered three broad topics: experiences using banks and credit unions; experiences using digital assistant technologies; and reflections on the idea of a financial digital assistant and issues of privacy, trust, and potential bias. This report summarizes findings on these themes and provides insight into how credit unions could take advantage of digital assistants to improve service delivery and differentiate offerings by incorporating elements from their mission and value proposition into their digital assistants. The way forward is to develop particular product proposals and related data transparency policies that can provide members with a new understanding of what they could achieve by relating with their credit unions through “talking computers.”


Credit unions have an opportunity to deploy digital assistants in ways that improve service delivery and member experience and provide new types of service offerings. In thinking about what types of digital assistants would provide the best fit for your credit union and member needs, keep the following research findings in mind: 

  • People like the promise of bots as part of a modern, organized, and simplified life.
  • The realities of existing bots fall short of expectations and can limit imagination.
  • People are resigned to the constant advance of technology without transparency or the ability to meaningfully opt out.
  • Relations with credit unions are valued for their human element and trustworthiness, even if this means older, clunkier tech.
  • The design space is complex, including diverse combinations of technologies, member needs, and business opportunities worth considering.
  • The idea of talking with/through bots is becoming mundane, but credit unions could pleasantly surprise members with unique service features.
  • Credit unions could tailor these technologies to show their strengths and to educate members not just about finances but also about data. 

In order to create a competitive advantage, credit union digital assistants would have to not only be useful and usable but also embody and express the core values of the credit union system. By building upon these core values of empathy and respect, credit unions could focus their development of digital assistant technologies in a way that creates differentiation, even with fewer resources than are available to larger financial services providers. 

We use findings from our research to generate design ideas that are meant to illustrate pathways worth exploring, developing, and evaluating: 

  • Build a helpful, always-accessible agent. This kind of digital assistant could serve as the voice of the specific credit union and provide basic support but also demonstrate the “members not customers” ethos of the credit union value proposition.
  • Provide an assistant to help members maintain, augment, and monitor their personal financial support systems.
  • Provide robot counsel. This financial digital assistant could serve as a “second pair of eyes” as members conduct transactions with any financial services provider, intervening if necessary but always being available for reassurance or advice.
  • Connect members to each other. This assistant would embody the credit union as a member cooperative, helping connect members to each other.
Access complete report, summary slides, and design principles here.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Trust and Social Capital in the Old City of Hyderabad: A Study of Self-Help Groups of Women, India

by Rosina Nasir, Jawaharlal Nehru University

"Trust and Social Capital in the Old City of Hyderabad: A Study of Self-Help Groups of Women, India,"  The Oriental Anthropologist: A Bi-annual International Journal of the Science of Man, Vol 21, Issue 1, 2021.


Why do people trust each other? Do people form groups through mutual trust or self-interest? How does the theory of rational choice and accompanying individualism affect the concept of social capital? Are social cohesiveness in groups and financial success related? Such questions generate interest in conditions promoting association and group emergence, such as trust, reliability, reciprocity, and shared values, which are inherent factors for cohesion. Self-help groups (SHGs) in an urban context are used to comprehend the aforementioned questions. The proposed study is based on the following hypothesis: the formation of groups is not based on trust but on material- and non-material- need-based individual rational choices that force them to cooperate with each other. It is found that a sense of insecurity among migrant women, an emotional need, led the formation of the imagined communities and has paved the way to construct trust. Thus, trust is found to be secondary in construction and sustainability of social capital. Castes, regions, and religions are strong factors; however, they are found to be less effective for the migrants than native SHG members. Therefore, among migrants, trust channelized itself vertically around a sense of fear.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Beginning July 1, 2021 IMTFI Blog email will be delivered from MailChimp

Administrative note: Google has announced it will be shutting off its Feedburner application for email subscriptions beginning July 2021.  

The IMTFI Blog will be sending new posts through MailChimp beginning July 1st, 2021. Current subscribers will be receiving an email from “IMTFI Blog” from a MailChimp email address – please be sure to add this address to your contacts to avoid messages being diverted to junk mail.

Don't worry! The IMTFI Blog you know and love will still be here, we are just changing how you will receive email notifications.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Apo-cash-alypse Now!

by Andrew Crawford, Doctoral Researcher (GIGA, Universit├Ąt Hamburg) and IMTFI Fellow

It’s embarrassing to admit as a finance academic but I’m bad with money. Not bad like I’d lose it all on a blackjack table, or have no money to buy lunch, but bad with payments. I have bank accounts in different countries, multiple Paypal accounts, a cryptocurrency hardware wallet and various ATM cards that lurk around my bedroom. I have only a vague awareness of how much money is in each and mostly go with the flow when I pay for things. Needless to say, I am being shafted by a bunch of payment providers in terms of fees, but I neglect to resolve the issue. Usually, apart from wasting money, this constant state of organised chaos never causes problems. But sometimes things go wrong, and my fragile payment ecosystem spirals out of control. This happened during my recent trip to Cambodia. 

I’m in Cambodia for 4 months working on a research project to measure the effect of COVID-19 on the microfinance sector. Two months in, I realised that it was time to pay my semester fees at the German university where I am doing my PhD. Thanks to the inexpensive nature of German universities this only amounts to 360 euro. I logged into my German online banking to do the bank transfer (the only means of payment accepted). The bank requires two-step authorisation so I brought with me an old Samsung phone with my German simcard set to roaming. I submitted the bank transfer and stared at my old phone, but then nothing. There was cell signal and the phone seemed to work fine. I asked online banking to resend the code then to my delight an SMS came through. I entered the code and it was rejected. Oh, maybe I made a typo. I entered it again. Still wrong. How could I type this wrong twice? I very thoroughly entered it one more time. Wrong. Then my phone beeped again. A second message had come through with a new code. The first message was the first code so it was no longer valid after I asked for a second code! I quickly went to enter the second code but my German account was now blocked due to three wrong codes. Crap. To reactivate the account I would need to take ID to my local branch in Hamburg. Sigh. As an alternative I transferred money from my Australian account (that I’ve had since I was 12 years old). This turned out to be 10% more expensive but at least the semester fees would be paid! 

The next day the Cambodian government suddenly announced that due to the spike in COVID cases a hard lockdown and curfew would operate from 8pm that day. It was sudden so I rushed to supermarket. Chaos. Like most countries panic buying was in full force so I decided I would go to my local convenience store instead.[1] Before I left, I took a video of all the panic buying because ‘hey it feels dramatic and I need to video it’. At this point you need to know that I keep all my ATM cards in a ‘card sock’ in the back of my phone. This is because I’ve been pickpocketed before and thought why do I need a wallet? I’m always conscious of my phone and never lose phones. If I never lose phones and my cards are attached, I will never lose my cards. Smart. While I was recording the panic buying I dropped my phone. Not so smart. It crashed onto the pavement and the screen cracked. I was so annoyed with myself I picked up the phone and quickly left while looking at the damage. I arrived home at 7.50pm and went to watch a movie, specifically Hunger Games, since the three-finger salute used in the Myanmar protests had reminded me of the film. I went to rent it from Amazon using my Australian ATM card and realised it was gone from my phone’s ‘card sock’. Damn. It must have fallen out when I dropped the phone. There was only 10 minutes left until curfew so I couldn’t leave, lest I be beaten with sticks by the Cambodian police which is their punishment for breaking curfew. Since my German account was also blocked all I had left was PayPal. Of course, Jeff Bezos doesn’t like PayPal so to rent the movie I bought an Amazon gift card from an online gift card website with PayPal. They charged $23 for a $20 gift card which was another hit to my hip pocket.

I cancelled my Australian ATM card and had a new one ordered which would go to my mother’s house in Australia and she would express post it to me in Cambodia. But for now, I had no ATM card. What would I do? You need cash in Cambodia![2] Apple Pay is here but it’s not so common yet. Thankfully, I still had a Cambodian bank account that I’ve had for years due to being paid consultant fees in Cambodia. I knew there were a few hundred dollars left. But I didn’t have the ATM card for this account (I assume it’s lurking in my room in Germany) but I did have the good ole passbook. All the local branches were closed during lockdown so I ventured to the head office to withdraw the money. This meant crossing 4 roadblocks and trying to explain to police my predicament. After finally making it to the head office I had my hands disinfected, temperature checked and wore my face mask to head inside the deserted bank and withdraw my money at the friendly teller. Relief. I had cash again. I was safe.

My brief experience not having cash made me concerned about some others in Phnom Penh that could no longer work. Specifically, I was worried about my friend and regular Tuk Tuk driver Ara who was completely dependent on his Tuk Tuk income. I called him and offered him some money but he lived in a part of the city that was too difficult to visit. Thankfully, Cambodia has an extensive mobile money network, named Wing, so I went to the Wing office on my street, opened an account, deposited some cash then transferred him some money that he very much appreciated. I didn’t realise at the time but using Wing would be my saviour in the end. 

A few days later I had a Zoom presentation of Loy Loy: The Financial Literacy Board Game that I co- created at IMTFI. The presentation was to the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and I was nervous. We expected at least 60 people to attend, possibly, some very important folks. Plus, it was midnight in Cambodia time and so I was worried about staying alert. I sat at the laptop and joined the zoom call. Internet can be patchy in Cambodia and as more and more people joined the meeting I could see my home connection become more and more unstable. I had planned for this and my phone was ready to hotspot with its faster cell network connection. I switched to the hotspot and felt safe just asthe meeting was to start. Then I received a message, “your data for the  month is about to be consumed”. CRAP. In Cambodia you usually buy cellphone credit from shops through the little scratch cards where you scratch off the number and enter the code. But it was midnight, shops were closed, and police with sticks were patrolling the streets. What could I do? I opened the Cellcard app and saw a small Wing logo. Ah perhaps I could connect the accounts. I hurriedly went through all the pins, SMS confirmations and fingerprint scans to connect the two, topped up and renewed the data plan, just as they were calling my name to present. Phew!

So, what have I learned from this whole experience? Well, firstly, be patient with two-step authorisations when you’re overseas, don’t film panic buyers because that’s mean, ‘card socks’ are not foolproof, mobile money accounts are useful during a pandemic, and it’s even handier to have lots of cash when all else fails. I mean with cash I bet I could have paid the policeman to not beat me with a stick and instead lend me his phone for a hotspot.

[1] Panic buying in Cambodia mainly involves eggs, rice and canned fish. Toilet paper is not essential thanks to ubiquitous bidet bum guns.

[2] Cambodia runs on both US dollars and the local currency – the Riel. This is due to the central bank being destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, with all currency then eliminated and a lack of faith in the reintroduced local currency ever since.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

5/18 (Tues) 9-10amPT: Book Talk – Reimagining Money: Kenya in the Digital Finance Revolution

IMTFI, the Global Africa/Global Blackness Research Cluster in UCI's Department of Anthropology & Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA) present the following book talk:

Reimagining Money: Kenya in the Digital Finance Revolution by Sibel Kusimba

May 18th, 2021
Tuesday, 9-10amPT/12-1pmET/6-7pmSAST

Introduced by
Bill Maurer, UC Irvine, IMTFI Director

Sibel Kusimba, University of South Florida
Olufunmilayo (Funmi) B. Arewa, Temple University Beasley School of Law
Nina Bandelj, UC Irvine

Webinar registration

JOIN US for a discussion with Sibel Kusimba to talk about her new book, Reimagining Money: Kenya in the Digital Finance Revolution, Stanford University Press.

 Available online: Chapter 1 and Table of Contents

About Reimagining Money: Kenya in the Digital Finance Revolution
Technology is rapidly changing the way we think about money. Digital payment has been slow to take off in the United States but is displacing cash in countries as diverse as China, Kenya, and Sweden. In Reimagining Money, Sibel Kusimba describes the rise of M-Pesa, and offers a rich portrait of how this technology changes the economic and social landscape, allowing users to create webs of relationships as they exchange, pool, borrow, lend, and share digital money in user-built networks. These networks, Kusimba argues, will shape the future of financial technologies and their impact on poverty, inclusion, and empowerment. She describes how urban and transnational migrants maintain a presence in rural areas through money gifts; how families use crowdfunding software to assemble donations for emergency medical care; and how new financial groups invest in real estate and fund weddings. The author presents fascinating accounts that challenge accepted wisdom by examining the notion of money as wealth-in-people—an idea long-cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa and now brought to bear on the digital age with homegrown financial technologies such as digital money transfer, digital microloans, and crowdfunding. The book concludes by proposing a new theory of money that can be applied to designing better financial technologies in the future.

About the author
Sibel Kusimba has conducted over twenty years of ethnographic research and archaeological fieldwork in Kenya. She is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida and is the author of African Foragers (2003). You can read her bio here.

For questions email