Colloquium: Dylan Riley - The Emergence of Interventionist Censuses: 1850-1936
from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
During the period from 1850-1936 a major shift occurred in the fundamental purpose of censuses. Whereas previously censuses aimed to gather information for resource extraction or simply sought to describe the population, from the mid-nineteenth century censuses began to be linked to attempts to alter the underlying biology of human populations. The main manifestation of this new information collection project was an attempt to record the fertility of different human groups. This paper traces the rise of these "interventionist" censuses in three different countries: the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy. It argues that this new information-gathering project was closely linked to the development of capitalism, and the rise a new types of "information intellectuals". Further we suggest that the fundamental demographic units used to carve up national populations were strongly shaped by a set of deeply entrenched lay understandings of salient social divisions.
Dylan Riley is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkley. He is the author of The Civic Foundations of Fascism (Hopkins 2010). His work has also appeared in the American Sociological Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Comparative Sociology, Social Science History, The Socio-Economic Review and the New Left Review. He is also a member of the editorial committee of the New Left Review. This paper is based on a chapter of a book entitled How Societies and States Count: A Comparative Genealogy of Censuses with Rebecca Emigh of UCLA and Patricia Ahmed of South Dakota State University