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Nationalizing statistics : a comparative study of the development of official statistics during the 20th century in Israel-Palestine and Canada

  • Author(s): Leibler, Anat Elza
  • et al.
Abstract

This study is a comparative work on the development of national statistics in Canada and Israel-Palestine during the first half of the 20th century. I explore how processes of state building in Canada after Confederation, at the beginning of the 20th century, and in Israel, before and after the establishment of the state, in 1948, have shaped national statistics, and were shaped by the production of statistics. In Sheila Jasanoff's phrase (2004), I deal with the co-production of statistics and the nation-state. At the core of this study are two state organizations: in Canada, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics (DBS) and in Israel, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). The work demonstrates how a governmental agency, such as a statistical bureau, is subject to some of the same pressures and expectations as a laboratory, above all to produce "objective" knowledge. Such pressures, and the danger of political pressures interfering with the truth, interact with ways of organizing statistics, and seemingly also with ways of carrying out a census (Porter 1995). The centralization and monopoly of the two bureaus, I argue, which enabled their control over a complete set of data on the population, and the absence of competing state institutions, built statisticians' credibility as scientists and disassociated them from the political context. While the processes of centralization were broadly similar in both Canada and Israel, I also argue that there was a key difference in the motivations for centralization or how centralization was legitimated: Demography and population management were central to Israel vs. developing the economy and participation in international affairs in Canada. Although dealing with the organization of statistics is central in this work, it has less importance without discussing the objects that the practices of national statistics constituted. Thus, part of the central argument is that these objects, which were co-constituted by statistics, included social institutions such as citizenship, in Israel, ethnic categories, the economy and the state as a rational and distinct entity, in Canada. Each chapter deals with these institutions

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