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Accepted Paper:

'There's no such thing as a killer bullet point': epistemic modalities in economics and the differing authority of data aesthetics.  
Alice Pearson (European University Institute)

Paper Short Abstract:

Based on ethnography of the Bank of England, this paper traces how the Bank’s Agents translate between different epistemic modalities, navigating the different authority imbued in distinct aesthetics of data.

Paper Abstract:

Central banks draw on heterogenous practices of knowledge production to map ‘the economy’, with different epistemic modalities from mathematical modelling to interviews with large and small businesses. In the UK, the Bank of England has a network of Agents across country to assemble understandings of emerging inflationary dynamics through interviews with ‘contacts’, usually executives of firms. This paper is based on 6 months’ ethnography with this Bank of England network, including direct participant observation of over 80 interviews between Agents and contacts, and further ethnography with Agents themselves. It traces how Agents assemble understandings of ‘the economy’, and how they situate their knowledge practices within the broader landscape of epistemic modalities within the Bank. Agents struggle to appeal to forms of epistemic authority that are imbued in aesthetics of quantitative data: as one Agent put it to me, ‘there are ‘killer charts’, but there’s no such thing as a killer bullet point.’ The paper explores how different understandings ‘data’ are navigated, translated and mediated, and how these are situated within wider political relations that are currently contested in economics. In doing so, leverages this ethnography of the Agents to reflect on the role of ethnography within anthropology.

Panel P202
Number politics: ethnographies of composing, sensing, and being with data
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -