Date/Time: Wed 13 Jul - Thu 14 Jul / All Day
Location: Monash University, Caulfield Campus
What’s Your Story? Surveys, Social Science Expertise and The State in the 20th Century
Workshop: 13 – 14 July 2016
We expect social surveys and other forms of social science research to inform, shape, and critique government and other public policies, but this was not always the case. This workshop brings together scholars from around the world to examine how, when, and why the techniques of social science surveying took on such public prominence, and to consider the effects and legacies of that process.
This workshop will be the first to bring together Australian and international experts to map the transnational history and influence of the social survey, a key tool in the social sciences. The workshop will make social research itself—its theories, methodology, and applications in twentieth-century life—the subject of sustained historical analysis.
In order to answer these questions, participants will disaggregate social survey research in order to trace its development with respect to place, people, groups, and techniques. Each of the participants will consider an example or examples of twentieth-century social surveys. Some of these come from national contexts, including Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Others take regions, such as the work of the League of Nations on human trafficking in the East; UNESCO’s work in Central and South America; or surveys of “race-mixing” in the Pacific. None of these studies existed in a vacuum, of course, and the workshop will interrogate connections between instances of social surveys. These connections were sometimes across national boundaries, and/or between imperial centres and colonies, and between empires themselves.
In addition, the workshop will consider in some detail the limits of participation in twentieth-century survey research, especially on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, class, age, and region. Some groups were considered “unsurveyable,” and that distinction has had significant ramifications in the making of social and government policy, right down to today. Women, for example, and colonised people, were, at different times, considered unreliable narrators of their own experiences. Children likewise have usually been ignored as surveyors of their own lives. Alternatively, those experiences were simply thought to be unimportant – others knew best how to shape policy that would affect such groups. Some people’s voices, in short, are simply not heard at the level of policy-making. Thus several participants in the workshop will examine groups such as Indigenous Australians, who, as colonised people, were more often the subject of ethnographic or anthropological research than of social surveys. In doing so, we will test out the limits of social surveys as a technology of knowledge for the production of policy.