Statistical Conventions and the Forms of the State: A Story of South African Statistics

Juliette Alenda-Demoutiez (2021)

New Political Economy. Online first

Abstract. Central for governance, official statistics are far from natural artefacts. The purpose, meaning and interpretation of statistical conventions evolve across time and space, in relation to social and political aspects. If criticism of indicators is growing since several years, less is understood on the process of quantification himself, especially in non-Western countries. Understanding quantification processes in different contexts is even more important as statistics are widely used in the development field. With a different complexity compared to Northern societies, African countries appear as privileged fields for this understanding and its connection with state-building. By using the analytical framework of the conventions school, I reread the case of official statistics in South Africa. Based on process-tracing, I show the history of the quantification process through its relations with the state, from a racial state during the apartheid to a developmental state nowadays.

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