Introducing a New Blog Series on Demonetization in India, from the Institute of Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion

March 3, 2017

By Ursula Dalinghaus

From the centers of banking and finance to the payment peripheries in the global south, one finds an increasing push toward digital money futures – a future without cash and a future where the means of payment are digitized and privatized, globally. Some see this as a more inclusive future, especially advocates and practitioners of financial inclusion efforts to include the poor within formal banking systems. Others are more upfront about the profit-making value of what one might call “digital payment enclosures,” where one now has to “pay” to pay and where money is no longer a public good that all can access equally. The recent demonetization move in India is therefore highly relevant to broad debates occurring globally on the future of money and state-issued currency, what forms state-issued legal tender should take, and to what (and whose) ends.

Cash is a crucial technology of everyday financial life across the globe and a “public good.” A change in money, even “if only” to cancel or replace particular denomination banknotes, therefore entails different stakes for individuals, segments of a society, as well as national and transnational communities. Such infrastructurally and politically complex operations, including but not limited to the initial rollout phase, can disrupt or unsettle a whole array of social practices and overlapping monetary ecologies with implications for relationships, social hierarchies, and the daily and informal ways of making do. But so often, how these major monetary changes are experienced and negotiated on the ground, especially by those with little power and influence, is rarely documented in detail and indeed largely silenced. Diverse actors, intermediaries, and institutions “for and against” such policy moves fill the space of analytical possibility, reiterating the desired and “inevitable” outcomes. But the details of such monetary and technological shifts matter greatly to those of us engaged in the social studies of finance and who are working to historicize, track, and critically engage processes of marketization and financialization across time and space.

In order to document and develop an on-the-ground understanding of unfolding events around demonetization in India, The Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) organized a special blog series on the demonetization move with perspectives from IMTFI Research Fellows. Series contributors assess the impact of demonetization from the ground up and create that essential space for the stories and insights of people negotiating these monumental shifts that will inform our analyses of this major policy event, now and for years to come.

IMTFI’s Special Perspectives Series on Demonetization in India can be accessed through this curated blog post (here), which provides an overview and links to each post in the series. The series aims to foster an open dialogue on issues around money, technology and financial inclusion for the world’s poor. To learn more about the Institute for Money, Technology, & Financial Inclusion, or to access our growing archive of research and publications on the intersections of mobile money technology and monetary practices, see here.


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