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Bill Maurer - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Bill Maurer Bill Maurer

Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Professor, Anthropology and Law | UC Irvine


Bill Maurer is an anthropologist and expert on money’s artifacts and technologies, from cowries to credit cards and cryptocurrencies.



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UCI Blockchain Bootcamp - Professor Bill Maurer - Blockchain and the History of Money Bill Maurer, Expert on Mobile Money That Touch of Money: The Cashless Past, Some Cashless Futures, and the Public Good Bill Maurer: Blockchains are a Diamond’s Best Friend




Professor Maurer is a cultural anthropologist and sociolegal scholar. His most recent research looks at how professional communities (payments industry professionals, computer programmers and developers, legal consultants) conceptualize and build financial technology or “fintech,” and how consumers use and experience it. More broadly, his work explores the technological infrastructures and social relations of exchange and payment, from cowries to credit cards and cryptocurrencies. As an anthropologist, he is interested in the broad range of technologies people have used throughout history and across cultures to figure value and conduct transactions. He has particular expertise in alternative and experimental forms of money and finance, payment technologies, and their legal implications. He has published on topics ranging from offshore financial services to mobile phone-enabled money transfers, Islamic finance, alternative currencies, blockchain/distributed ledger systems, and the future of money.

He is the Director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (www.imtfi.uci.edu). From 2008-2018, he coordinated research in over 40 countries on how new payment technologies impact people’s well being. Highlights from IMTFI’s research were published in Money at the Margins: Global Perspectives on Technology, Financial Inclusion, and Design (with Smoki Musaraj and Ivan Small). Since 2018, IMTFI has been the Filene Center of Excellence in Emerging Technology. With Filene, Maurer has been exploring how fintech impacts the credit union movement, exploring topics ranging from algorithmic bias in consumer-facing applications of AI, to the often-ambiguous lessons fintech apps teach their users. His research has had an impact on US and global policies for mobile payment and financial access, and it has been been discussed in venues ranging from Bloomberg BusinessWeek to NPR’s Marketplace and the Financial Times.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Payments Industry




Money and Finance

Consumer Finance

Accomplishments (7)

Dynamic Womxn of UCI Ally Award


Fellow, Filene Research Institute


Member, Sigma X


Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science


Visiting Faculty, Microsoft Research New England, Cambridge, MA


Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research, UC Irvine


Lauds and Laurels Award for Faculty Achievement, UC Irvine Alumnae Association, UC Irvine


Education (3)

Stanford University: PhD, Anthropology 1994

Stanford University: MA, Anthropology 1990

Vassar College: AB, Anthropology, Women’s Studies 1989

Affiliations (8)

  • American Anthropological Association
  • American Ethnological Society
  • Society for Cultural Anthropology
  • Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
  • Society for Humanistic Anthropology
  • Law and Society Association
  • Royal Institute for Linguistics and Anthropology (Netherlands)
  • Social Science History Association

Media Appearances (5)

New normal: Is COVID-19 killing cash?

UCI School of Social Sciences  online


Cashless-ness is neither inevitable nor desirable, says Bill Maurer, an anthropologist at the University of California Irvine who specializes in financial technology. “As long as there are poor people or refugees and immigrants or the elderly or the disabled, where traditional financial institutions are not accessible enough, there will be a need for cash,” he told CTVNews.ca …. His recent research points to young people, who are entirely adept with mobile and digital, storing cash to check their spending and to save.

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Emotional Currency: How Money Shapes Human Relationships

NPR  online


"It goes something like this: in the beginning, before there was money, if I had something that you needed, I would approach you with that thing and see if you had anything that I needed," says anthropologist Bill Maurer.

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Would you trust this man with your money?

WIRED  online


As the controversy rages on, Bill Maurer, the dean of social sciences at the University of California, Irvine, sees a missed opportunity to have necessary discussions about important issues with the world’s financial systems and the impacts on democracy. “In a way, I think, unfortunately, because it is Facebook, it's just, ‘get them in front of us on the TV cameras, and let's yell and scream at them about privacy and security’,” he says.

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Money, then and now

UCI School of Social Sciences  online


Most evidence suggests that money arose from recordkeeping — or, as UC Irvine professor Bill Maurer explains to Bob, "in the beginning was not the coin... in the beginning was the receipt." In this segment, Bob speaks with Maurer and Brown University's Mark Blyth about past and present myths about money, and what the history of money might suggest about its future.

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Busking in the age of Venmo

Marketplace  online


“There’s really no good solution for folks in the informal economy,” said Bill Maurer, an anthropology professor at University of California, Irvine, who studies how consumers use financial technology. He said none of the payment services we have at the moment can do what good old-fashioned cash can.

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Articles (5)

Primitive and Nonmetallic Money

Handbook of the History of Money and Currency

Bill Maurer

2020 Feathers, beads, shells, copper bracelets, and giant stones – objects that Western observers have assumed serve the functions of money in so-called simple societies and other non-Western contexts – come in all shapes and sizes. This chapter reviews the literature on “primitive” currencies, from early ethnology to contemporary anthropology and archeology.

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TOKENS - Culture, Connections, Communities

Royal Numismatic Society Special Publications

2020 The volume contains 15 of the contributions offered by speakers at this event. While the conference had a thematic format to encourage scholarly exchange, the chronological presentation of papers here will allow readers to trace the development of tokens over time.

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Payments are Getting Political Again

The PayTech Book: The Payment Technology Handbook for Investors, Entrepreneurs and FinTech Visionaries

Bill Maurer

2019 Payments are political in that they are a function of state sovereignty, and also an extension of it. This is old news, of course: money itself emanates from state sovereignty. But digital payments, obviating the anonymity of cash transactions and generating vast quantities of data in their wake, provide new opportunities for states to extend their reach. These politics of payments are not, of course, limited to authoritarian regimes.

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Finance as ‘bizarre bazaar’: Using documents as a source of ethnographic knowledge


Daniel Tischer, Bill Maurer, Adam Leaver

2018 Markets and finance have long attracted ethnographic interest but the nature of their activity – opaque, secretive and increasingly placeless – precludes traditional ethnographic fieldwork. In this article, we propose documents as an alternative access point to these organisations as an ethnographic object of enquiry.

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Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy

Theory, Culture & Society

Future of Money Research Collaborative:, Taylor C Nelms, Bill Maurer, Lana Swartz, Scott Mainwaring

2017 The payments industry – the business of transferring value through public and corporate infrastructures – is undergoing rapid transformation. New business models and regulatory environments disrupt more traditional fee-based strategies, and new entrants seek to displace legacy players by leveraging new mobile platforms and new sources of data.

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