From Cowry Shells to Cryptos

Evolving Geographies of Currency

Authored by: Matthew Zook

The Routledge Handbook of Financial Geography

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815369738
eBook ISBN: 9781351119061
Adobe ISBN:


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While systems of money and currency are often couched as ‘natural’ solutions to the cumbersome requirements of barter, this understanding is fundamentally misleading. Far from a generalizable solution readily applied to all societies and spaces, the practices of money and forms of currency are inherently cultural and geographical. They emerge at particular moments in time and space, and are designed to solve particular problems, such as trade, exercising cultural or political power, or the inclusion or avoidance of particular actors. In short, money and currency are tied to the socially embedded process of technological change—be it metallurgical, mechanical, communicative, or encryption-based—shaped by cultural drivers and political ideologies (Leyshon and Thrift, 1997; Zelizer, 1997; Golumbia, 2016).

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