Why grassroots data activists in Latin America count feminicide—and how this vital social justice work challenges mainstream data science.
What isn't counted doesn't count. And mainstream institutions systematically fail to account for feminicide, the gender-related killing of women and girls, including cisgender and transgender women. Against this failure, Counting Feminicide brings to the fore the work of data activists across the Americas who are documenting such murders—and challenging the reigning logic of data science by centering care, memory, and justice in their work. Drawing on Data Against Feminicide, a large-scale collaborative research project, Catherine D'Ignazio describes the creative, intellectual, and emotional labor of feminicide data activists who are at the forefront of a data ethics that rigorously and consistently takes power and people into account.
Individuals, researchers, and journalists—these data activists scour news sources to assemble spreadsheets and databases of women killed by gender-related violence, then circulate those data in a variety of creative and political forms. Their work reveals the potential of restorative/transformative data science—the use of systematic information to, first, heal communities from the violence and trauma produced by structural inequality and, second, envision and work toward the world in which such violence has been eliminated. Specifically, D'Ignazio explores the possibilities and limitations of counting and quantification—reducing complex social phenomena to convenient, sortable, aggregable forms—when the goal is nothing short of the elimination of gender-related violence.
Counting Feminicide showcases the incredible power of data feminism in practice, in which each murdered woman or girl counts, and, in being counted, joins a collective demand for the restoration of rights and a transformation of the gendered order of the world.
Catherine D'Ignazio is Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. She is the coauthor, with Lauren F. Klein, of Data Feminism (MIT Press).
“Counting Feminicide is a thoughtful work of care. This book demonstrates how grassroots data activism against feminicide is a transformative force in society, restoring dignity, forging a path to justice, and envisioning a world free from violence against women.”
Paola Ricaurte Quijano, Tecnológico de Monterrey; coauthor of Resisting Data Colonialism: A Practical Intervention
“Since Ida B. Wells began counting lynchings, producing data has never been politically neutral. Counting Feminicide demonstrates both the power of counting women killed in gender-related violence and the power of decolonizing data science. It's a must-read for anyone who believes data can and must be used for good.”
Ethan Zuckerman, author of Mistrust: Why Losing Faith in Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them
“Exposing how grassroots data generation can change lived reality, Counting Feminicide is a must-read for anyone wanting to know more about the interplay between data and feminism in action.”
Stefania Milan, Professor of Critical Data Studies, University of Amsterdam, and Research Associate, Florence School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute
“This book is a powerful and loving testament to the feminicide data activists and caregivers that continue to give our lives towards documenting violence with the hope of ending it. It provides compelling examples of feminist data in action and is itself exemplary of collaborative theorizing that uplifts grassroots leadership. D'Ignazio thoughtfully navigates political and cultural differences among feminicide data practices while offering a useful and moving understanding of the meaning of community-based feminicide data projects.”
Annita Lucchesi, PhD, Founder and Director, Sovereign Bodies Institute