Indigenous cryptocurrency: Affective capitalism and rhetorics of sovereignty

Cindy Tekobbe, John Carter McKnight


Financial technologies embody and shape notions of social, as well as financial, worth. New digital ‘alt-finance’ systems, including the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin and similar ‘cryptocurrencies,’ are no exception: technology, rhetoric, imagined users and non-users, and a long history of sociotechnical, political, and cultural relations are all elements in a dynamic assemblage with wide-ranging consequences. This paper examines the rise and fall of one alt-finance system: MazaCoin, a Bitcoin variant intended to benefit the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The story of MazaCoin is one of an attempt to unite two apparently divergent sociotechnical assemblages: (1) a libertarian, elite technology of cryptocurrency, and (2) a richly traditional indigenous community with a deep desire for cultural survivance, bound up in a precarious economy left behind in the wake of more than a century of genocide.

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