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Accepted Paper:

Knowledge-making for ‘diversity policies’  
Lieke van der Veer (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Paper Short Abstract:

To prove the need for and impact of anti-discrimination policies, municipalities monitor discrimination and keep records of reported cases. While administrators need such data to legitimize their work, they challenge the use of contested indicators and the quantification of complex social phenomena.

Paper Abstract:

With numerical data on discrimination and on the effectivity of anti-discrimination interventions, public administrators responsible for ‘diversity policies’ hope to ‘map’ and ‘make visible’ discrimination. Committed to create ‘more knowledge’ about discrimination, these administrators ground their policy interventions in quantified data produced by a range of actors—including national government actors, national knowledge institutions, municipal departments, data registration offices, and civil society organisations. The data composed in these dispersed knowledge practices can however not easily be mapped on to each other: in data on racism, for instance, different indicators are used, which renders datasets on ‘race/skin colour,’ ‘nationality’ and ‘origin/colour’ difficult to align. Next to juggling with incomparable datasets, administrators challenge the use of indicators that they think of as re-instantiating discrimination and bring the politics of category-making itself under the attention of research organisations they collaborate with. In dealing with these in-equivalent and contested indicators, municipal administrators find themselves positioned in a politically sensitive policy field. In the past, bureaucrats have been publicly accused by conservative MPs for hiding specific data (e.g. discrimination of ‘LGBTI-people’ by ‘Moroccan people’), which has raised awareness among municipal administrators about number politics. To anticipate these number politics, administrators seek and create momentum to publish reports and try to re-embed dislocated knowledge by 'adding context to numbers'. Based on ongoing multi-sited field research in the Netherlands, this paper builds on work in anthropology of technology and critical diversity studies to demonstrate how political pressures in knowledge-making about anti-discrimination contribute to the non-performativity of ‘diversity policies.’

Panel P202
Number politics: ethnographies of composing, sensing, and being with data
  Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -