The aim of this session is to shed light on the basis of policy, to zoom in on how, by whom, where and why the stuff that policy is shaped upon is created. Policy-making is processual and all papers in the session focus on various aspects of the earliest stages of policy-making, looking into how the authoritative knowledge upon which policies then are crafted emerges.
Such knowledge is typically constructed around numbers, which may thus be seen as “objects with agency” (Muniesa, Millo and Callon 2007). In what has been termed “a regime of calculation” (Porter 1995) and “a culture of numbers” (Knorr Cetina 1999), the seemingly objective and neutral character of numbers and statistics has been unveiled (see Miller 2001; Porter 1995; Rose 1999).
Numbers and statistics are, from such a critical perspective, seen as political instruments and “bearers of implicit meaning” and as a way for power to operate in disguise by means of “governing by numbers” (Miller 2001; Nyqvist 2008; Thedvall 2006). Within such a line of reasoning it has been suggested that numbers act in four ways, namely, to establish expertise and authority, to make knowledge impersonal, to portray certainty and universality and to contribute to resolving situations of doubt, conflict and mistrust (Zaloom 2006).
The study of the basis of policy allows for critical analysis of issues of power and the construction of regimes of truth. How does authoritative knowledge emerge? How are calculations and idioms developed to make new way of thinking hegemonic? All papers in this panel focus on and shed light on the knowledge that policies are shaped and constructed upon. The session opens up with a general introduction to the field stating the importance of studying the embryonic and formative stage of policy-making. The five invited papers deal, in various ways, with the creation of knowledge upon which policies within such different political areas such as environmental issues, immigration politics and financial policy is created and how. The session concludes with a presentation held by an invited discussant.
American Anthropological Association conference 16-20 November in Montreal, Canada