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Speaker Series: Sally Merry, New York University

  • When: February 7, 2018, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

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Infrastructural Regulation and the Infrastructure of Measurement

A focus on the role of infrastructure in global governance opens up new arenas in which to analyze the myriad mechanisms of global regulation. This is the subject of a current research project Professor Sally Merry is working on in collaboration with Benedict Kingsbury, Paul Mertenskoetter, Thomas Streinz and Nahuel Maisley. This project looks at the relationship between infrastructure and regulation as a dimension of global governance. It is intended to foster a network of researchers investigating this issue and to develop a set of conferences. Merry will describe this project and then illustrate the approach through an infrastructural analysis of global measurement and governance based on some of her research discussed in Seductions of Quantification (Chicago, 2016). Merry’s argument is that seeing measurement as a kind of infrastructure helps to explain its stability over time and its resistance to contestation once it has been established. This is a phenomenon often described as path-dependency, but Merry will focus on the material basis for this pattern as well as the forms of expertise and bureaucratic management that create measurement and resist change. Merry described this tendency to continue in the same path as data inertia and expertise inertia in her book. Here she will build on that analysis by showing how thinking about the infrastructure of measurement explains these forms of inertia.

Courtesy of New York University

Sally Merry is Silver Professor and Professor of Anthropology at New York University. She is also Associate Department Chair, Faculty Co-director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law, and past president of the American Ethnological Society. She is the author or editor of fifteen books and special journal issues and over one hundred and twenty-five articles and reviews. Her recent books include Colonizing Hawai‘i (Princeton, 2000), Human Rights and Gender Violence (Chicago, 2006), Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective (Blackwells, 2009) and The Practice of Human Rights, (co-edited with Mark Goodale; Cambridge, 2007). She received the Hurst Prize for Colonizing Hawai‘i in 2002, the Kalven Prize for scholarly contributions to sociolegal scholarship in 2007, and the J.I. Staley Prize for Human Rights and Gender Violence in 2010. In 2013 she received an honorary degree from McGill School of Law and was the focus of an Author Colloquium at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. She is an adjunct professor at Australian National University. Her forthcoming book, The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Violence against Women, and Sex Trafficking (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) examines indicators as a technology of knowledge used for human rights monitoring and global governance.

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