Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Numbers and Society: Themes in Quantitative Sociology

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit locates numbers and enumeration as means by which society is imagined and represented. The first part of the study-unit looks at the historical development and contemporary workings of the enumerative modality - that is, the representation of society as a collection of numbers. Concepts from, among others, Foucault, are used to discuss the relation between numbers, the state, and power, using the examples of the history of census in India and Britain. More recent case studies include the production and contestation of fishing and wildlife conservation data. The second part of the study-unit is more practice-oriented and looks specifically at the dynamics of quantitative surveys and experimental design as means by which social statistics are produced.

Study-Unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to acquaint students with some of the critical perspectives on social statistics and enumeration in the social sciences generally. It also introduces them to the basics of quantitative-survey and experimental design.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Discern useful from not-so-useful statistics;
- Comprehend some of the processes of production of statistics;
- Demonstrate an understanding of the power hierarchies of census and other state/officializing statistics.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Read, assess critically, and generally 'take a part' scholarly texts;
- Relate to social-scientific ideas in a grounded way;
- Relate to the dynamics of peer review and scholarly thought and writing.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

Joel Best, "Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling numbers from the media, politicians, and activists", University of California Press, 2012.

Joel Best, "More Damned Lies and Statistics: How numbers confuse public issues", University of California Press, 2004.

Alan Bryman, "Social Research Methods", 5 ed., Oxford University Press, 2016.

W. Lawrence Neuman, "Social Research Methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches", 7 ed., Pearson, 2009.

Supplementary Readings:

Kathrin Levitan, "A cultural history of the British census: Envisioning the multitude in the nineteenth century", Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Bernard S. Cohn, "Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: The British in India", Princeton University Press, 1996.

Michel Foucault, "Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison", Vintage Books, 1995.

(Students are also provided with a substantial reading packet made up mostly of journal articles.)


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Mark Anthony Falzon

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It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.