Vinayak Krishnan

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Sussex, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10699

Approve Date

April 15, 2024

Project Title

Krishnan, Vinayak (Sussex, U. of) "The Social Production of Statistics: Analysing Tacit Knowledge and Political Economy of the Customised Surveying Industry in India"

The production and analysis of statistical knowledge has become central to contemporary social science research and development practice. Anthropological accounts of statistical production have frequently emphasised the considerable work of interpretation and translation that is required for the construction of universal numerical measures of various socio-economic phenomena. Within this framework, statistics are primarily conceptualised as products of an elite technocratic project. This theoretical approach does not account for the way statistics are often produced through large-scale surveys, requiring complex forms of cultural mediation and social management to integrate the knowledge and labour of a variety of different actors. These include both the technocratic work carried out by elites as well as the skilled labour of field workers who must collect the required data from respondents. Through an ethnography of the work routines of field workers who are involved in data collection, and survey firms that hire them and manage these projects, this study aims to analyse the social relations, organisational processes and tacit forms of local knowledge that underly the production of statistics. In doing so, it seeks to go beyond the prevailing paradigm of quantification as a technocratic intellectual process and unpack the broader socio-material foundations of statistical knowledge.