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Decentralised Finance: Another end of geography?

Manuscript deadline: 31 July 2024

Research by the Bank for International Settlements (Auer et al., 2023, 3) defines decentralised finance as a “financial ecosystem built on technology that does not require a central organisation to operate and that has no safety net. It consists of protocols – implemented as ‘smart contracts’ – running on a network of computers to automatically manage financial transactions. Implemented on top of distributed ledger technology, it does not require banks or other traditional centralized intermediaries”.

Whatever definition we use, the quintessentially geographical challenge of decentralised finance starts in the very name. What are the spaces of this decentralisation in theory and practice? How does decentralisation of finance work within and across geographical scales and contexts? Perhaps counterintuitively, to what extent is even decentralised finance prone to processes of geographical articulation? What structures and agencies affect its emergence and evolution? What are the actual and potential impacts of decentralisation of finance on economy, society, and the environment? This special issue seeks to address these crucial questions.

In this call for abstracts, we are keen on receiving interdisciplinary contributions from within and beyond geography, including anthropology, economics, environmental science, history, political science, and sociology. Below we present a non-exclusive list of topics that pertain to each of the key questions.

What are the spaces of decentralised finance in theory and practice? And how does decentralised finance inform current understandings of space?

  • How can we conceptualise decentralised finance in the light of the inaugural editorial of Finance & Space journal (Wójcik et al., 2023, 4), where finance is defined as “a spatially and temporally articulated system of human-environment relationships, in which people interact with and experience each other and their environment and create systems of value through the medium of money”?
  • How can decentralised finance be understood through the conceptual lenses of ecosystems, financial ecologies, global financial networks, and digital platform economies? What socio-spatial processes are uncovered by such approaches (and which ones are not?)
  • How is space theorized in the operations of decentralised finance? What are the tensions between notions of physical space and digital space? To what extent does decentralised finance give purchase to topological non-hierarchical readings of space? Or does it rather support more hierarchical and scalar views of space? What is the relevance of archipelagic notions of space?

How does decentralisation of finance work within and across geographical scales and contexts? To what extent is even decentralised finance prone to processes of geographical articulation?

  • What does the current map of decentralised finance and its sectors look like?
  • If decentralised finance involves technology that redefines the role of trust (Zetzsche et al., 2020), how does it redefine the role of physical, social, and other types of proximity in finance and between finance and other sectors as well as government?
  • What are the socio-technological processes that enable the decentralisation of finance? And what processes of regulation, taxation, infrastructural dependency, and embeddedness in spatially articulated professional communities lead to its continued rootedness in particular spaces?

What structures and agencies affect its emergence and evolution?

  • How similar is the current wave of decentralised finance to prior ‘revolutions’ including telephone and internet banking, direct finance through capital markets, and securitisation, which all promised but arguably failed to decentralise finance?
  • What are the configurations of private and public actors promoting decentralised finance and in what ways?
  • How is decentralised finance embedded in the development strategies of financial and offshore centres and the acts of commercialisation of state sovereignty (Palan, 2002)?
  • What are the intersections between digital nomadism, post-national communities, and the rise of decentralised finance?

What are the actual and potential impacts of decentralisation of finance on economy, society, and the environment?

  • How could decentralised finance change financial behaviour, financial literacy, financial transparency, financial inclusion and exclusion, and consumption of finance?
  • What are the relationships between decentralised finance and sustainable finance, and what are the consequences of these relationships for people and the environment?
  • To what extent does the development of decentralised finance communities drive processes of urban change (Lynch and Muñoz-Viso, 2023)? What is the embeddedness of decentralized finance communities in urban society and how might they reshape gentrification processes?


Auer R, Haslhofer B, Kitzler S, Saggese P, Victor F (2023) Technology of Decentralized Finance (DeFi). BIS Working Paper 1066. Basel: BIS.

Lynch, C R, Muñoz-Viso, À (2023) Blockchain urbanism: Evolving geographies of libertarian exit and technopolitical failure. Progress in Human Geography

Palan, R (2002) Tax Havens and the Commercialization of State Sovereignty. International Organization 56(1), 151-156.

Wójcik D, Bassens D, Knox-Hayes K, Lai KPY (2023) Revolution, evolution, progress: Finance & Space manifesto. Finance & Space 1(1), 1-12.

Zetzsche DA, Arner DW, Buckley RP (2020) Decentralized finance. Journal of Financial Regulation 6: 172-203.

Submission Instructions

Interested authors should submit an abstract of 500 words max. (all inclusive) on one page, including the title, keywords, contact details and affiliations of all authors, by e-mail to the Special Issue Editors by February 29th 2024, whose contact information is listed above. By the end of March 2024 selected authors will be invited to participate. Submissions, due by the end of July 2024, will be subject to the usual peer review process of the journal.

The Special Issue Editors plan to host a series of sessions on decentralised finance at the Regional Studies Association Annual Conference in Florence, 11-14 June, 2024. These sessions will be advertised on! in January 2024. If you are interested, please submit an abstract through the conference page before January 30th 2024. While the Conference will be an opportunity to meet Editors and other Contributors to the Special Issue and obtain feedback, and hence attendance is encouraged, it is by no means expected or necessary for participation in the special issue.



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