Global histories of the social survey in the long nineteenth century – February 18-19, 2020 – Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin

Global histories of the social survey in the long nineteenth century aims at analysing the co-production of the social and the colonial as related objects of scientific knowledge as well as fields of political and economic intervention in the long nineteenth century. The period under consideration connects the military-scientific expeditions to Egypt and the Terres Australes of the late Republic and early Napoleonic empire with the reconfiguration of the colonial world-order in
the wake of the First World War (ca. 1798-1918). As research in recent decades has focused mainly on the production of state-related social knowledge as tool of government and domination, our workshop wishes to explore administrative knowledge production along with less state-centred knowledge practices. While histories of classification in terms of gender, race and class as well as other social categories and their related juridical-economic consequences are an indispensable
background for studies on the history of early social sciences, it is our understanding that the focus on taxonomy and structure tends to overwrite the imaginative and intellectual agency of categorized subjects themselves. For related reasons the history of social inquiry has received large attention as an instrument of discipline but much less as an active means of epistemic resistance.
The perspective of a “history of inquiries” (Topalov 2015) in a global perspective might allow to disclose some of these untold stories at the intersection of state-related knowledge (Vogel/ Schilling 2019) and its appropriation and transformation by diverse groups of actors. At the same time the study of early techniques of social surveys, their development, reception and circulation through European and colonial spaces might contribute to a history of administrative knowledge in its social/national as well as colonial realm. Yet, the workshop does not aim to define the practice of the inquiry, its goal is rather a preliminary exploration of its different forms, materials and techniques. Leading questions of the workshop are: What were the representations of the “social” and the “colonial” embedded in and created by inquiries? How did they evolve and circulate throughout empires and social movements alike? How was epistemic resistance organized and how did social knowledge production from below look like? What are the methodological potentials and challenges of a global history of the social survey as an alternative path to write the history of the social/colonial sciences in the long nineteenth century?