A bull outside the Amsterdam stock exchange. The statue was originally placed at the other side of the square, but relocated for better photo opportunities. Photo by Erin B. Taylor

A bull outside the Amsterdam stock exchange. The statue was originally placed at the other side of the square, but relocated for better photo opportunities. Photo by Erin B. Taylor

Take a walk around Amsterdam’s historic centre. What do you see? Canals, coffee shops, and stalls selling tulip bulbs are some of the typical features promoted to visitors. Beneath this veneer, however, is a rather startling history of financial innovation whose consequences are felt globally.

To get closer to this legacy, I took a walking tour of Amsterdam’s financial history, along with other people who had attended the MoneyLab conference. Run by payments expert Simon Lelieveldt, this two-hour tour takes in the Goliaths and oddities of the city’s past and present.

The stock exchange, national bank, short-lived Mint, a 400-year-old pawn shop, and a former tulip market are just some of the visible remnants of a tiny country’s extraordinary achievements. They’re not at all difficult to spot–but first you have to know that they; re there. This is the advantage of the walking tour: it directs your focus beyond the typical tourist attractions to another layer of the city. [click to continue…]


Money makes the world go round. Can non-money achieve the same thing?

Money makes the world go round. Can non-money achieve the same thing?

The meeting of minds in viva is over. Posters removed, photos posted on Flickr, speakers returned home on multimodal transport. But MoneyLab the project has just begun. The two-day conference was not the cumulation of years of research, but the launch of a new endeavour to network diverse minds to consider “digital experiments with revenue models, payment systems and currencies against the backdrop of ongoing global economic decline.”

Where will it go to from here? What did we achieve that we can build upon, and what needs to be brought into the fold that was forgotten?

What happened at the conference?

The short answer to this question is “a lot.” When you bring together researchers, programmers, activists, artists, practitioners, and economists with a vast array of experience and political perspectives, it is virtually impossible to draw a common thread between speakers’ presentations. [click to continue…]

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MoneyLab: Is mobile money an alternative?

by Erin B Taylor March 24, 2014
Cash flies through the air in M-PESA's

The topic of mobile money is a somewhat anachronistic addition to a conference called MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives. In some ways, its inclusion in the conference makes total sense: mobile money is an alternative way to transact, and is providing new options to millions of people around the world who previously had to depend upon informal […]

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MoneyLab: Questioning the monetization of everything

by Erin B Taylor March 22, 2014
The very snazzy MoneyLab poster

The 2007-2008 financial crisis revealed serious fissures in the global financial system. Between housing foreclosures and the failure of large banks, few people seemed to escape its effects. Some people approached this crisis as an opportunity, hoping that it would trigger a serious public conversation about the shape of finance and its effects on human […]

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Mobile money and the social good of financial globalization

by Erin B Taylor March 21, 2014
Map of mobile money services around the world. Image from the GSMA Mobile Money Tracker.

Since Grameen Bank launched the microcredit movement in 1982, the quest for financial inclusion of the world’s poorest people has gained currency. Despite a few scandals, such as the oversupply of credit in places such as Andrah Pradesh, capital has continued to be funneled into microfinance by coalitions of development agencies, philanthropic organizations, and companies. They […]

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What can ethnography contribute to microfinance research?

by Erin B Taylor March 9, 2014
Thumbnail image for What can ethnography contribute to microfinance research?

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot about the difficulties involved in understanding microfinance customers and tailoring products to their needs. Microfinance experts across the industry have identified the need to understand microfinance customers better in order to meet the “double bottom line“; that is, provide a financial return as well as creating a positive social […]

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Cash in crisis: Mobilizing agents in post-earthquake Haiti

by Erin B Taylor January 14, 2014
A street market in Port-au-Prince. Photo taken by Erin Taylor.

Crisis is often linked to reductions in circulation of one sort or another. Economic crisis, such as the GFC, involves the slowing down of circulation of monetary value. Political crises, such as the recent shutdown of the US congress, see procedures of governance and statehood come to a halt. And human crises often prompt changes […]

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Circulation in crisis

by Erin B Taylor November 16, 2013
Reptiles such as this yellow-banded poison dart frog circulate on the black market. Photo by Adrian Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons.

What do murder, microfinance, and black markets in reptiles have in common? They all featured as part of a panel called “Circulation in Times of Crisis” at the Australian Anthropology Society conference in Canberra from the 5th to 8th November. Convened by Heather Horst and Marta Rosales, this panel explored the relationships between flows and […]

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Dominican Republic strips citizenship from Haitian descendents

by Erin B Taylor October 28, 2013
Entering the Dominican Republic on market day.

Maria crossed the border into the Dominican Republic in 1979. Tired of searching endlessly for work in her home town of Thiotte, Haiti, she settled in Aguas Negras permanently to work illegally in the local coffee industry. Her daughter, Fredelina, was born two years later in a tiny house made of sticks and mud. Although […]

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Musings on mobile money research from EPIC

by Erin B Taylor October 2, 2013
Mobile money exhibits the properties of cash, such as this twenty-five gourde note.

What is mobile money as an object of research? And how do we best design research programs and methodologies for it? These were the topics of a paper that Heather Horst and myself presented at the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference in London. Designing mobile money research is complex because mobile money is itself complex. […]

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