The Cultural Political Economy of Bitcoin in the Global South. Social structure, usage practices and imaginaries of the Bitcoin adoption in El Salvador (BITELSA)

BITELSA is a two and a half year research project funded by the Anniversary Fund of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB). The project is led by Dr. Tobias Boos and investigates the economic, political and social implications of the introduction of bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador. Combining perspectives and methods from international political economy, political science, political sociology and digital anthropology, it examines the case in the context of a “crypto roll-out in the Global South” as well as recent geopolitical developments and shifts in the global economy.

Project abstract

Bitcoin (BTC) became legal tender in El Salvador on September 7, 2021. El Salvador is the first country in the world where BTC holds the rank of legal tender. The BTC adoption is part of a development narrative in which people in the Global South are the beneficiaries of new technologies. However, the impact of the current “crypto roll-out in the Global South” has been virtually unexplored. This research project examines the impact of the role out of BTC in El Salvador. Drawing on the Cultural Political Economy approach, the research project examines the political economy context of the implementation of the BTC law; the relationship between social structure and the characteristics of BTC transactions and use practices in El Salvador; and how imaginaries around BTC connect with local and regional populist narratives.