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Accepted Paper:

Making numbers : counting and accounting sheep in the Catalan Pyrenees.  
Federico De Musso (Leiden University)

Paper Short Abstract:

In the Catalan Pyrenees, counting sheep is a collective and fuzzy practice that responds to institutional demands and seasonal changes. The multiple acts of counting sit at the intersection between navigating intricate subsidy systems and resisting drastic changes to the shepherds' livelihood.

Paper Abstract:

In the Catalan Pyrenees, in Spain, sheep breeders count sheep as part of their entrepreneurial practice. Counting sheep, as a practice is a collective endeavour, spread among multiple bodies, and that requires specific set-ups. On different occasions throughout the year, counting sheep requires dealing with seasonal changes such as weather and sheep geographic displacement. As a result, counting sheep is quite a fuzzy endeavour. Managing the herd’s numbers responds to both the varying objectives of counting, and the physical conditions that underlie it.

The sheep herd number, however, regulates both sheep breeders’ income and subsidy quota, and their ability to collaborate and work with other shepherds. On the one hand, shepherds are legally required to share their numbers with the Agriculture Department to obtain their subsidy quotas. On the other hand, sharing numbers with others helps shepherds understand what to expect from each other and “count on” each other – knowing who they can share pastures with.

Thus, counting becomes quite a political and social act. Different understandings of how accurate and how often counts should happen reflect varying degrees of changes that shepherds’ livelihoods should encompass. This paper analyses how counting sits at the intersection between navigating (and gaming) intricate institutional benefits and socialising resistance against drastic changes to the shepherds' livelihood.

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