FS2015: Morten Jerven "A world that counts? The promise and peril of ruling the world by numbers"



Instructor: Prof. Morten Jerven, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Time: May 23-27, 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm

Place: Petersgraben 9/11, Room 209

Registration: Please register by MOnA (VV-Nr. 45260) or send an email to guenter.schmidt@unibas.ch if you are interested in taking this course.



The use of numbers, performance indicators and benchmarks have grown exponentially over the last two decades, particularly in the field of international politics and development. Indicators are now firmly established as a distinct mode of global governance. The process of numbering involves translating complex phenomena into numerical values. The procedure converts what might otherwise be highly contentious normative agendas into numbers that appear technocratic and objective. The politics of numbers has implications for global governance, and particularly so for making norms, rules and regulations in the fields of international politics and economic development. During five days G3S PhD students will get the chance to present and discuss their current work with Morten Jerven (Associate Professor in Global Change and International Relations, International Environment and Development Studies). Students are required to read the literature suggested below and may present (in 30 minutes) aspects of their PhD study. Every presentation will be followed by a feedback from the instructor and a discussion in class.

May 23 A world that counts: an introduction to knowledge and governance by numbers
May 24 Development by Numbers: the use and production of numbers in economic development
May 25: Phd Student Presentations
May 26: Phd Student Presentations
May 27: Contesting numbers: perspectives of on how to do research on and with numbers.

Compulsory course readings:

Jerven, M., 2013 Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It. Cornell University Press, Cornell.
Cooley, A. & Snyder, J., 2015. Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance. Cambridge University Press: New York.
Porter, T.M., 1995. Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

About The Instructor:

Morten Jerven is an economic historian with a PhD from the London School of Economics, previously he has been working at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Jerven has been doing research on development statistics and how the use of numbers in affects governance and knowledge, in particular related to economic development in low income countries. He is the author of Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong and Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It, and has published widely on African economic development, especially on patterns of economic growth and economic development statistics.