Quantification and its socio-political implications in contemporary Turkey
27-28 September 2023/French Institute of Anatolian Studies and online
This colloquium invites young researchers at all levels (master, doctorate, post-
doctorate)to share original research about the uses of numbers and their socio-political implications in the Turkish context, past and present.
Numeric arguments are omnipresent in political discourse. As the time for Turkey’s
presidential election approaches in the aftermath of the seismic crisis, this observation
may become even more relevant. Figures and estimates on key ballot issues are
generated, disseminated, and interpreted by a complex body of interconnected actors:
pollsters, scholars,think-tank members, political party advocates, and so forth.
Inflation, for instance, is a daily topic in mainstream newspapers. The ‘true’ numbers of
inflation are calculated by economists and then shared by journalists in the public
arena where they become the subject of heated controversies in board-rooms, coffee
shops, and at dinner-tables. Competitive statistical narratives also circulate as
executives and ordinary people seek to make sense of current trends and likely future
scenarios. As some narratives win out over others, certain public institutions have been
brought into disrepute; whereas, conversely, private expertise companies have
acquired new levels of credibility and trust.
By organizing this colloquium, we wish to build a springboard for importing and
discussing the numerous studies dealing with the social history of statistics (see
Anderson 1988, Desrosières 2010 , 2008a; Didier 2000; Wuthnow 2015; Labbé
2019), the socio-political life of numbers in the public arena (see Schweyer 1991; Porter
2017 ; Desrosières 2008b, 2014; Bruno, Didier & Prévieux 2014; Gasquet et al.
2021), and the renewal of quantitative methodologies and techniques in the academic
field (see Bugeja-Bloch & Couto 2021) along with their impact on reframing theories
(see Field 2019; Bréchon & Zwilling 2020) and shaping state policies (see Aldrin 2010).
Research on quantification and the social life of numbers has been fruitful in many
parts of the world but has not yet been well established in Turkey. This event represents
an effort to advance a scholarly conversation about the Turkish case, including the
social history of ottoman and republican censuses (see Dündar 2001, 2005), statistics in
relationto technopolitics and institutional reform (see Silverstein 2020), and the
sociology of the public opinion and market research industry (see Abadan-Unat 1991).
This colloquium aspires to focus on a twofold research axis. On the one hand, we intend
to dissect the chain of production of statistical artifacts that we are likely to encounter
in our respective research areas. This focus entails a genealogical endeavor. To prevent
the risk of anachronism or teleology, we encourage pragmatist approaches that
examine each step of the quantification process as a practical and contingent
accomplishment. Chronological patterns should therefore be embedded with grounded
accounts of quantification as a social activity undertaken by specific actors
(interviewers, pollsters, statisticians…), integrated into various institutional networks
(companies, think-tank, NGOs, administrations…), on particular objects
(public opinion, social attitudes, political trends…), by relying on evolving techniques
(sampling, questionnaire design, data collection…), and requiring a handful of aptitudes
(counting, calculating, estimating, predicting…).
On the other hand, we wish to study the social life of statistical artifacts, narratives, and
arguments inasmuch as they provide inputs for engaging in public controversies. What
kind of public issues catalyze or magnetize statistical disputes within fields as various
as, for instance, state policy, administration of religious affairs, or social movements?
And how discourse and collective action are framed and reframed regarding
competitive figures on controversial issues such as inflation, immigration, work-related
accidents, natural hazards, or feminicides?
Emmanuel Didier (Research director in social sciences, CNRS, France)
Fuat Dündar (Professor in political science, TOBB University of Economics and Technology,
Morgane Labbé (Research director in social sciences, EHESS, France)
Brian Silverstein (Associate professor of Anthropology, Arizona Center for Turkish Studies,
University of Arizona, USA)
Claire Visier (Associate professor in political science, University of Rennes-1)
Dilek Yankaya (Associate professor in political science, Sciences Po Aix)
N.B. This colloquium follows up a round table on the role of polls in
Turkish elections with the participation of Aydın Erdem from KONDA
(Research and Consultancy). This event, organized by Yohanan Benhaim,
Necati Mert Gümüş and Théo Malçok, will take place on Wednesday,
September 27 between 18:00 and 20:00 at IFEA.