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

Date: 23.01.2020 - 25.01.2020

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 IHS Vienna


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 IHS Vienna.

Poster small / print version and
Programm small, print version

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.



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
Chair: Sophie Ledebur (Humboldt-University Berlin)

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

18:30-19:30    Christine von Oertzen (MPIWG Berlin):

True to Form: Media and Data Technologies of Self Inscription      

Chair: Peter Becker (University of Vienna)     


Friday, January 24, 2020


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

09:00 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

11:30 Harro Maas (University of Lausanne):

Entering the American Household: The Birth of the Home Economics Movement in the American Progressive Era                                       
Chair: Verena Halsmayer (University of Lucerne)      

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

16:30 Dan Bouk (Colgate University):

Who We Can Be When the Census Comes Calling: Stories from the U.S. in 1940
Chair: Sebastian Felten (University of Vienna)

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 Insanity and the Insanity of Control
Chair: Wolfgang Göderle (University of Graz)

09:00 Sophie Ledebur (Humboldt-University Berlin):

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

09:45 Lars Behrisch (University of Utrecht):

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


Data Beyond Speech
Chair: Nikolaus Thoman (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