6th AISU (Italian Association of Urban History) CONGRESS - "Visible and invisible: perceiving the city between descriptions and omissions", Catania, September 12-13-14 2013 - SESSION N-3: "Politics and numbers. Public uses of statistics in politic
This session aims at considering the role of statistics – through the analysis of political discourse and rhetoric (speeches, propaganda films, pamphlets, political parties’ materials, etc.) – as a decisive element for shaping representations and images of a city and/or a territory.
Starting from the second half of the 19th century, statistics was structurally part of the arguments used by local political discourse in order to “promote” – even in competition with other urban/territorial contexts, or towards central power – specific cities and regions. Infrastructures’ building processes, displacement of peripheral state agencies and new possible administrative geographies represented an attractive occasion for local institutions contending each other for resources, attentions and functions coming from the central State.
The general framework of these politico-narrative strategies was represented by the conflicts related to center-periphery and inter-urban relations. In this view, the rhetoric of growth (economic, demographic, commercial, urban) and its “quantification” through statistics, was considered, by local politics, essential to demonstrate the supremacy of a “promoted” city over its competitors.
But, how statistics was exploited by political discourse? What was the role of statistics, compared to other narrative strategies, in the construction of the image of a city and/or a territory? Did a “popular” statistics exist, opposed to a “professional” statistics? Eventually, what was the relationship between “politicians’ statistics” and “statisticians’ statistics”?
The session welcomes proposals clarifying the questions mentioned above. The chronological limits of the session have been fixed between the 19th century and the 1980's. Papers dealing with extra-European contexts will be also accepted.
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