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Call for Papers: 2 Panels and a Common Session on Politics of Population Censuses at ISA Forum of Sociology (14.-18.7.2020, Porto Alegre, Brazil)

1st. Call for Papers: Fourth ISA Forum of Sociology, July 14-18, 2020, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Session: Population Censuses: Preconditions and Alternatives

Population censuses have become part of the indispensable epistemic infrastructure of modern statehood and seem to be equally indispensable for holding governments accountable through analysis and critique when they fail to deliver on their declared public policy aims. While national statistical systems have been designed more and more systematically also because the United Nations have promoted population censuses worldwide since the 1950s, the census is by far not a global model that travels without translations. First, some states have never managed to implement a consistent system of population statistics leading to various problems of invisibility and exclusion for vulnerable groups. Others, often multi-ethnic states, have strategically refrained from collecting systematic statistics on their populations for decades in order to avoid possible conflicts about political power distribution among population subgroups. What are the challenges and risks of introducing systematic forms of population statistics? Second, increasingly population registers are becoming a primary source of official population statistics replacing or transforming traditional, questionnaire-based censuses, either by themselves, or in combination with other data sources. Why do we see this search for alternative methods of counting populations? Third, increasingly more states from every world region engage in highly innovative experiments of data collection on their populations partially in response to the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data. How are alternative data for key population indicators generated and used?

Session Organizers: Walter BARTL, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany,, Alberto VEIRA-RAMOS, University Carlos III of Madrid, Spain,

Submission deadline: September 30, 2019; Languages: English or Spanish; on-line only:


2nd. Call for Abstracts: Fourth ISA Forum of Sociology, July 14-18, 2020, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Varieties of Population Indicators: Their Construction and Use in Politics

The relevance of population indicators for democratic politics has been widely acknowledged in the still young field of Quantification Studies. A basic assumption in this line of reasoning is that there is an inherently political dimension to what seems to be methodological or technocratic issues in the construction and use of numbers in politics. The planned session picks up this argument by focusing on specific aspects of how population indicators are constructed and used in politics.

Population indicators often operate largely hidden from public scrutiny, while indeed defining the population(s) to be considered in public policy, the size of electoral districts, the nature of intergovernmental fiscal relations etc.  However, the processes by which population indicators are constructed and institutionalized as key elements of public policy are still poorly understood. Why do some societies rely on censuses and others on registers to know their populations? How contentious are institutionalization processes?

Expectations about the future are often narrated by using demographic projections. On the one hand demographic projections belong to the most reliable type of projections that we know and are hence crucial for policy formulation. On the other hand, migration movements introduce a notoriously hard to predict element in demographic projections. Critics have argued that demographic projections are politically exploited for sparking fears of ethno-racial conflicts or suggesting overwhelming factual constraints. How do population indicators operate as instruments of political imagination and why are they chosen over other possibilities?

Session Organizers: Christian SUTER, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland,; Walter BARTL, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany,

Submission deadline: September 30, 2019; Language: English; on-line only:


Common Session on „The Politics of the Population Census: Key Indicators for Sustainable Development?“ at the Fourth ISA Forum of Sociology, July 14-18, 2020, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

In Porto Alegre, the ISA Research Councils on the Sociology of Population (RC41) and Social Indicators (RC55) will co-organize a Common Session on „The Politics of the Population Census: Key Indicators for Sustainable Development?“, being one out of twelve proposals approved by the ISA Research Coordination Committee. The Common Session will feature Mara Loveman, University of California at Berkeley, USA, Ram B. Bhagat, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, India, and Patrick Simon, Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques, Paris, France as invited speakers. Organizers are Walter Bartl and Christian Suter who aim at an intensification of the dialogue between the emerging field of quantification studies and the classical research on social indicators. With regard to the public discourse in several countries, the session seems to be painfully timely, therefore it is a good occasion to gaining a comparative perspective on (trans-)national practices from the invited speakers. You are cordially invited to attend and engage in a vibrant scholarly debate on the often overlooked political dimension of data infrastructures.

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