Conversations on Europe. "The French Debate on Statistics and Ethnic Minorities: Historical Roots and Present Concerns."
For two decades French scholars of population and migration have bitterly debated the desirability of state sponsored statistical studies of ethnicity. The use of ethnic statistics has been seen as a significant departure from the state’s customary refusal to record any other information about the nationality of individuals except for citizenship. The controversy cuts across the traditional left-right political cleavages in France, and its intensity is linked to powerful assumptions about the political foundations of the French nation. Few participants in this debate have considered the issue from a European perspective. This talk demonstrates that the current debate is linked to an enduring discussion among statisticians going back to the nineteenth century about the possibility of using quantification to objectively treat questions of nationality.
Morgane Labbé is assistant professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Her research examines the history of the population sciences and population policy in central and eastern Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, with a particular focus on the links between population questions, nationalism, social welfare, and forms of bureaucratic government. She is now finishing a book on the emergence of nationalities statistics in this region, a work that explores the interplay between quantification, political claims, and diplomatic expertise.