Mariel Garcia Llorens

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Davis, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9533

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Garcia Llorens, Mariel, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Financializing 'the poor': The Peruvian Mobile Money Platform,' supervised by Dr. Marisol de la Cadena

This project investigates the practices of the technocrats, development practitioners, bankers and IT engineers that are working together to co-produce mobile money as both a financial technology and a development model in Peru. On February 2016, the Peruvian Association of Banks launched Billetera Movil (BM), the ‘Mobile Wallet,’ a mobile cash transfer service that enables basic cellphones to do monetary transactions via text messaging. Working in coordination with all the mobile network operators and Ministries of Finance and Social Development, the associated Peruvian banks have organized a for-profit partnership that is building a single mobile money infrastructure for all. Under the umbrella of the World Bank ‘banking the unbanked’ strategies and with the technical support of the Gates Foundation, BM targets the poor and marginalized people that have historically been the constituents of top-down development schemes, and it is the first national mobile money platform in the world to promote ‘financial inclusion’ from its inception. I propose one year of fieldwork among these heterogeneous communities of experts to understand how mobile money indexes different, partially connected worlds of global finance and development (Riles 2001, Strathern 2004). I argue that an empirical examination is key to understand this emerging global financial system as a complex heterogeneous network–pervaded by competing and collaborating experts, the intransigent local economies of ‘the unbanked,’ and the limits of mobile technologies as agents of top-down ‘rationalization’ schemes– contrary to the utopian fantasy of a single, fully integrated cashless world.