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a potent weapon in…a struggle over the terms of truth

1 October 2011

My point has been that we can most profitably look on the deployment of statistics as neither description nor pure propaganda but as a technology for the production of social knowledge and subjectivity. The quantifying sciences are a potent weapon in what is fundamentally a struggle over the terms of truth.

That is from an 1993 article in American Ethnologist, entitled “cultural politics in an age of statistics: numbers, nations, and the making of Basque identity,” by Jacqueline Urla. I assigned it last week in my graduate seminar on Ethnic Politics in Comparative Perspective. The week’s reading was devoted to measurement.

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