Fabricating the Integrity of Gold in Refineries

Digital Visibility and Divisibility

Keywords: responsible supply chains, integrity, gold refining, blockchain, digital fetishism


Gold refineries are under pressure to revise their understanding of “integrity” beyond the physical cohesion of gold products, in order to integrate supply chain due diligence on human rights, labour conditions, and conflict financing as part of what can be coined the ethical integrity of gold. This article interrogates how processes of erasure, through material purification in the refining process, and disclosure, through certification against “responsible” standards, are reconciled within one expanded notion of integrity. By paying specific attention to processes of digitizing gold in this endeavour, it argues that, while limited in its role as a transparency device, digitization fosters new uses of gold, making it more liquid, more rapidly tradable, and potentially more speculative. These digital fetishes open new fields of value, not out of the gold itself but out of its traces, in which, paradoxically, artisanal ground producers selling physical gold remain poorly included so far.

Author Biography

Matthieu Bolay, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Matthieu Bolay is a social anthropologist and a postdoctoral researcher at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He has expertise in the politics of extraction and his research lies at the crossroads of migration, labour, politics, technology, and the law.

How to Cite
Bolay, Matthieu. 2021. “Fabricating the Integrity of Gold in Refineries: Digital Visibility and Divisibility”. TSANTSA – Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association 26 (June):85-104. https://doi.org/10.36950/tsantsa.2021.26.7124.