250 Years of House Numbering in the Habsburg Monarchy

International Conference House Numbering and Urban Modernity.

September, 16.-18. 2020

Organized by Anton Tantner, co-funded and supported by WSTLA, Verein für Geschichte der
Stadt Wien, Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv, Wienmuseum, Institut für Wissenschaft und Kunst
(IWK), Österreichische Gesellschaft für Dokumentation und Information (ÖGDI), Stadt
Wien/MA7 (grant in preparation), Vienna



15. Juni 2019 | 14-18 Uhr, Seminarraum 1, Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien, Universitätsring 1

Organisiert von Anton Tantner

Meta Niederkorn, Institut für Österreichiche Geschichtsforschung: Nummerierung von Akten und Urkunden in mittelalterlichen Registraturen

Peter Becker, Institut für Österreichiche Geschichtsforschung: Nummerierung von Akten im Zuge der Kanzleirefom

Christian Klösch, Technisches Museum Wien: Nummerierung und Kennzeichen von Fahrzeugen in der Habsburgermonarchie um 1900

Anton Tantner, Universität Wien: Nummern für Subjekte - Grauen und Freiheitsversprechen einer unscheinbaren Kulturtechnik



Data at the Doorstep. Sites and Side Effects of Interrogation (c. 1800–1950)

Programm small, print version
Poster small, print version

Laurens Schlicht / Sophie Ledebur / Anna Echterhölter in cooperation with the working group “The State Multiple. Bureaucracy, Politics, and Accounting”, University of Vienna and the Research Platform “Social Sciences History” at the Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna (IHS)

January 23-25, 2020
Location: Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna (IHS), Josefstädter Straße 39, 1080 Vienna

Over the course of the 19th century, techniques for gaining knowledge about a given state’s population were successively perfected. Birthrates, legal customs, health metrics, family structures, property, and deviance were listed, processed, and recalculated. But where did these historical numbers come from originally, who collected this data, and who composed the questions it pursued? The planned conference investigates the practices of data production and knowledge gathering at the doorstep, as it were. Before technology could allow for ubiquitous data capture, the threshold of the home was a site of knowledge production: Envoys of the state or enumerators volunteering for an interest group arrived at people’s houses to make direct contact with the population of study. This mode of data collection is investigated in parallel to the rise in statistical numbers from 1800 to around 1950, with a particular emphasis on the data produced by private initiatives and collectives.
Our focus lies with the “scientification” of both the social (Lutz Raphael) and all forms of data about people. Firstly, we look at administrative practices and formats that choreograph what actors may protocol, process, or modify within the given information. Secondly, this scene of interrogation is guided by underlying categories and taxonomies within which these practices became possible. Both perspectives on data production impinge on the construction of subjects and privacy.

Administrative practices and formats: When at the beginning of the 19th century states began to institutionalize particular modes of data collection about their citizens, the procedures and legal implications were by no means clear. Therefore, a set of explicit or implicit rules had to be established to advise the “helping hands” and knowledge-collectors (such as local officials, physicians, religious clerics, teachers, statisticians, policemen, social workers, housewives etc.) as to what kind of information they should gather. For instance, police interrogation practices were reformed in the second half of the 19th century, methods of social work were devised according to the “social casework” of Mary Richmond, questionnaires from the discipline of legal anthropology were deployed to the colonies, and political enquêtes commissioned. The particular sites of these forms of bureaucratic empiricism are of key concern. They shape how agents of knowledge processing and subjects of data production form a specific micro-constellation. Data generation may result from interviews or cross-examinations and may be informed by deception or possible counter-knowledge.

While on the one hand this information is produced and maintained by large organizations and particularly states – and while the very format is potentially marginalizing and subordinating – statistics has, on the other hand, served as a powerful tool for independent interest groups. Such numbers can potentially challenge or reform the state: They counter hegemonic perceptions and thereby open up the possibility for “numbers from below.” In post-revolutionary France, for instance, the Deaf Community created its own system for accounting for the so-called “deaf-mutes” amongst them, in an effort to organize a power structure for what was sometimes called the “nation” of the Deaf. Other examples of early statactivisme (Isabelle Bruno/Emmanuel Didier) constitute important elements of women’s movements and are described in travel accounts about enumerative initiatives (Fallati, 1840). This raises the question of the particular relation between “weak knowledge” (Moritz Epple) and data collection.

Emergent categories and systems: Data generation about subjects produces subjectivities. New frames for people serve an operative function in administrative lists, file cabinets, and eventually warehouses full of analogue data. Ian Hacking has shown that in many ways an interplay between attributions of subject categories (such as “women,”, “mad,” and “workers”) and the addressed subjects must be taken into account – in what he calls the “feedback effect.” This is especially true for forms of state knowledge and its counter-knowledges: In order to generate information about the group of “workers,” a specific professional ethos had to be known to the data collectors in order for the group of “workers” to be constructed at all. With the introduction of the tabulating machine, new dynamics of categorization and intersectionality emerged. The invisible labor of veterans and housewives, who were well versed in manual data processing, was jeopardized (Christine von Oertzen). But how did these storage systems play out at the site at which knowledge was first gathered? Did the filing process, the retrieval systems, or mechanized counting impinge upon privacy or rather enhance and produce it? How is the personal sphere framed in legal terms, and when were technical infrastructures capable of linking data back to the respective doorstep of their first acquisition?

The conference focuses on the politics and historical epistemology of administrative knowledge and its counter-knowledges. As in the neighboring fields of the empirical sciences, where natural phenomena became increasingly “datafied,” institutions, international organizations, and allies of the state produced a new type of knowledge, e.g. in juridical, medical, and criminological constellations. Frank Pasquale emphasizes how the present is characterized by algorithmic opacity on the side of elite trading, and a notable increase in transparency for ordinary citizens. This international workshop sets out towards an archeology of this transparency.


IHS, Josefstädter Straße 39, 1080 Vienna (Salon)

Thursday, January 23, 2020
14.00 Thomas Koenig (IHS Vienna): Welcome to the IHS and Short Introduction:

Present Data Practices in the Social Sciences

14:15 Laurens Schlicht, Sophie Ledebur, Anna Echterhölter: Opening Remarks:

Johannes Fallati’s Travels From Door to Door  


Questions, Answers, Positions
14:40 Anke te Heesen (Humboldt-University Berlin):

Interview and Interior 

Enumeration and its Discontents
Chair: Anna Echterhölter (University of Vienna)
16:00 Marine Bellégo (Centre Alexandre-Koyré, Paris):

Floating Population: Inside and Around the 1872 Bengal Census

17:00 Gerardo Serra (University of Manchester):

The Field and the Nation-State: Census-Taking and Political Imagination in 1960s Ghana and Nigeria

Chair: Sophie Ledebur (Humboldt-Universität Berlin)
18:30-19:30    Christine von Oertzen (MPIWG Berlin):

True to Form: Media and Data Technologies of Self Inscription      


Friday, January 24, 2020

Collecting Data for Charity and the Art of Economizing
Chair: Anton Tantner (University of Vienna)

9:00 Martin Herrnstadt (Berlin):

Visiting the Poor: Moral Observation and the Formation of the "Empire of the Self" in Restoration France (ca. 1800-1830)

10:00 Cristina Sasse (University of Giessen):

A "Personal Survey of the City": Directory Editors and the Production of Local Demographic Knowledge in Britain, 1760-1840

Chair: Verena Halsmayer (University of Lucerne)                         
11:30 Harro Maas (University of Lausanne):

Entering the American Household: The Birth of the Home Economics Movement in the American Progressive Era                                       


Data from the Fields and Data at Sea
Chair: Borbala Zsuzsanna Török (University of Vienna)

14:00 Federico D'Onofrio (Università di Venezia Ca' Foscari):

An Early Data Revolution: Farm Accountancy Data in Europe, 1870-1940

15:00 Annemarie Steidl (University of Vienna):

Transnational Data: Enumerators and Central European Migration in US Census Reports, c. 1850                                     


Estimating Values and Narrating in Numbers
Chair: Sebastian Felten (University of Vienna)

16:30 Dan Bouk (Colgate University):

Narrative History of the U.S. Census of 1940  

17:30 Emmanuel Didier (CNRS Paris):

Counting on Relief: Industrializing the Statistical Interviewer during the New Deal
Chair: Laurens Schlicht (University of Saarbrücken)


Saturday, January 25, 2020                                                         

Controlling Madness and Madness of Control
Chair: Wolfgang Göderle (University of Graz)

9:00 Sophie Ledebur (Humboldt-University Berlin):

Incomplete Census Data and Subsequent Inquiries: Collecting Information on the Mentally Ill in Prussia

9:45 Lars Behrisch (University of Utrecht):

Statistical Knowledge and Politics in the Late 18th Century: Discourses and Practices


Data Beyond Speech
Chair: Anna Echterhölter (University of Vienna)

11:15 Laurens Schlicht (Saarland University):

The State and the Lying Child: Questioning the Youth in Germany, 1920s -1930s

12:00 Mihai Surdu (University College Freiburg):

Blood Group Studies of “Gypsies”. Collecting Genetic Data by State Institutions, 1921-1970

13:00-13:30 Concluding remarks