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The quality of quantity: Al-baraka as a lens on blockchain-based aid

Margie's talk explores how refugee women in Jordan's Al-Za'atari and Al-Azraq refugee camps evaluated a blockchain-based financial aid experiment. The Islamic concept al-baraka was used to critique the 'quality of quantity' (Ross et al 2020): how technological change depleted the durability, bounty, and consistency of aid payments. The evaluative lens 'mish [not] baraka' signifies women's struggle to define value beyond mere spending power, and beyond the promises of disruptive financialisation.

Dr Margie Cheesman is a Lecturer in Digital Economy at the Department of Digital Humanities. Margie’s work examines the socio-political implications of digitalisation. Her research uses ethnographic methods to engage with elite and marginalised stakeholders—from global migration governance institutions to asylum seekers and refugees. She has published key studies on experimental money and identity technologies (like digital currencies, blockchains, biometrics), highlighting the justice concerns surrounding their adoption in humanitarian aid, welfare, and development projects. Margie has worked as Assistant Editor of the journal Big Data & Society and is a Research Affiliate at the University of Cambridge’s Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy.

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Margie Cheesman

Lecturer in Digital Economy

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