How EU data practices establish and assign people to categories, and how this matters in enacting—“making up”—Europe as a population and people.
What is “Europe” and who are “Europeans”? Data Practices approaches this contemporary political and theoretical question by treating it as a practical problem of counting. Only through the myriad data practices that make up methods such as censuses can EU member states know their national populations, and this in turn is utilized by the EU to understand the population of Europe. But this volume approaches data practices not simply as reflecting populations but as performative in two senses: they simultaneously enact—that is, “make up"—a European population and, by so doing—intentionally or otherwise—also contribute to making up a European people.
The book develops a conception of data practices to analyze and interpret findings from collaborative ethnographic multisite fieldwork conducted by an interdisciplinary team of social science researchers as part of a five-year project, Peopling Europe: How Data Make a People. The book focuses on data practices that involve establishing and assigning people to categories and how this matters in enacting Europe as a population and people. Five core chapters explore key categories of people—usual residents, refugees, homeless people, migrants, and ethnic minorities—and how they come into being through specific data practices such as defining, estimating, recalibrating and inferring. Two additional chapters address two key subject positions that data practices produce and require: the data subject and the statistician subject.
In this illuminating collection, Evelyn Ruppert, Stephan Scheel and their contributors show how state building within the European project is bound up with proliferating classification devices, measuring, sifting, and sorting populations into insider and outsider categories. This rigorous collection brings home how we are living through a crucial period in which data is mobilised in increasingly powerful and pervasive ways.
Mike Savage, Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics
Data Practices brings together a range of sophisticated approaches to the ways in which digital data make up and act on social worlds. In doing so, it lends a vibrant contemporary concreteness to the ways in which new statistical aggregations have contributed to the production of the transnational structures and processes that characterize the European project. Its double-take on how these have shaped both a European population as an object of governance and a European peoplehood as a new if fragile set of identities is exemplary.
Tony Bennett, Emeritus Professor, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University
Evelyn Ruppert and Stephan Scheel have brought together a brilliant collection of essays to help us understand how European people are made up through counting. The entities we call "Europe" and "European" can be studied in many ways, through history, institutions, language, and cultural practices... How people are counted and who is counted are crucial to both our understanding of populations and of politics.
Sally Wyatt, Professor of Digital Cultures, Maastricht University
Data Practices's detailed case studies of the practice of statistical data production should be included on the syllabus of any introductory statistics, data science or research methods course. However, it is its thoughtful consideration of quantitative data production from the perspective of the data subject, beyond the (often) superficial consideration of data privacy and security, that will earn it pride of place on my bookshelf.
Dr. Mariel McKone Leonard
London School of Economics Review of Books