STS Speaker. The Seductions of Quantification: The Politics of Measuring Human Rights and Gender Violence
Sally Engle Merry, New York University
An intense preoccupation with numbers is sweeping the worlds of international and domestic governance, based on the idea that political decisions must be made on the basis of objective quantitative data. Using examples from the measurement of gender violence and human rights compliance, this talk argues that despite the value of quantitative data and indicators, they are produced within particular political contexts and cultural frameworks and categories. Indicators promise to provide objective information as the basis for governance, but my ethnographic examination of the production and use of indicators shows that they should be understood as political and cultural artifacts as well.
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