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In the spring of 1893, the Austrian writer and critic Hermann Bahr began interviewing various people on antisemitism, a subject of heated discussion in the European feuilleton around 1900. “Once again, I am travelling the world sounding out people’s opinions and listening to what they have to say,” he wrote in his introduction to a series of articles on that issue that appeared in the feuilleton of the Deutsche Zeitung between March and September 1893. A year later, the Berlin publishing house S. Fischer turned Bahr’s articles into a book. Bahr conducted a total of thirty-eight interviews with prominent personages, such as August Bebel, Theodor Mommsen, Ernst Haeckel, Henrik Ibsen and Jules Simon. Bahr did not focus on the arguments in favour or against antisemitism. Instead, he set out explicitly to investigate the sentiments, perceptions and opinions on this topic within the cultured classes. Yet, as I will show in this article, Bahr tried to capture not only the “sentiments” [Empfindungen] aired by his interviewees, but also the settings and interiors in which the interviews took place. I argue that these descriptions of physical space served Bahr as authentication, as a three-dimensional certificate for the “facts of opinion” [Meinungstatsachen] he recorded.
This paper examines self-inscription, a mode of census enumeration that emerged during the nineteenth century. Starting in the 1840s, a number of European states introduced self-inscription as an auxiliary means to facilitate the work of enumerators. However, a decisive shift occurred when Prussian census statisticians implemented self-inscription via individual “Zählkarten”—or “counting cards”—in 1871. The paper argues that scientific ideals of accuracy and precision prevalent in the sciences at the time motivated Prussian census officials to initiate self-inscription as an at-home scenario unmediated by enumerators, in which the census form alone was to yield truthful information from the respondents. By illuminating the bureaucratic means for implementing scientific ideals and practices in gathering personal census data, the paper offers an in-depth analysis of the media, technologies, and manpower that census takers deployed to reveal the epistemic—as well as social and political—impact of being “true to form.”
Collecting data about people with mental disorders living outside of asylums became a heightened concern from the early nineteenth century onwards. In Germany, so-called “insanity counts” targeted the number and sometimes the type the mentally ill who were living unattended and untreated by professional care throughout the country. An eagerly expressed assumption that the “true” extent of the gathered numbers must be much higher than the surveys could reveal came hand in glove with the emerging task of “managing” insanity and its potential dangers in a modern society. The doorstep of the family home became a crucial site in psychiatrists’ and enumerators’ efforts to register the most sensitive of personal data. This article traces the ever more diligent methods that were employed to obtain the desired information, as well as the hidden agenda of the postulate of missing data itself. It also addresses the profound impact that the presumption of having only incomplete data has had on the practice of counting and surveying, as well as on the understanding of the need for professional monitoring of mental illness.
The article uses three case studies from the 1920s to explore how psychologists and elementary school teachers employed psychological techniques to gain knowledge about elementary school children and their milieu. It begins by describing the role of the elementary school and the elementary school teacher in the Weimar Republic. It then discusses the so-called “observation sheets” that were used in elementary schools in the 1920s to gain insights into the mental and moral characteristics of pupils. Third, it examines psychological experiments undertaken in elementary school classrooms based on the exemplar case of a single teacher/experimenter, before concluding with a comparison of the two practices. I argue that psychology gained in standing through this history, becoming recognized as a foundational science in the context of education. Teachers used the professionalization of observation techniques in school to enhance their socio-epistemic status.
This paper contrasts the research strategies of two women reformers, Florence Kelley and Ellen Swallow Richards, which entailed different strategies of social reform. In the early 1890s, social activist Florence Kelley used the social survey as a weapon for legal reform of the working conditions of women and children in Chicago’s sweatshop system. Kelley’s case shows that her surveys were most effective as “grounded” knowledge, rooted in a local community with which she was well acquainted. Her social survey, re-enacted by lawmakers and the press, provided the evidence that moved her target audience to legal action. Chemist and propagator of the Home Economics Movement Ellen Richards situated the social problem, and hence its solution, not in exploitative working conditions, but in the inefficient and wasteful usage of available resources by the poor. Laboratory work, she argued, would enable the development of optimal standards, and educational programs should bring these standards to the household by means of models and exhibits. With this aim, she constructed public spaces that she ran as food laboratories and sanitary experiments. Kelley and Richards thus crossed the doorsteps of the household in very different ways. While Florence Kelley entered the household to change the living and working conditions of the poor by changing the law, Richards flipped the household inside out by bringing women into hybrid public laboratory spaces to change their behavior by experiment and instruction.
Data collections are a hallmark of nineteenth-century administrative knowledge making, and they were by no means confined to Europe. All colonial empires transferred and translated these techniques of serialised and quantified information gathering to their dominions overseas. The colonial situation affected the encounters underlying vital statistics, enquête methods and land surveying. In this paper, two of those data collections will be investigated—a survey on land and a survey on indigenous law, both conducted around 1910 on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei, which had fallen under German colonial influence a decade earlier. Strikingly, there are no enumerators or envoys of the state visiting the doorsteps of Pohnpei. To facilitate the data collection on homesteads, the whole population of the island was called upon to measure their respective plots of land themselves, without resorting to certified land surveyors. The preserved cadastral lists and spreadsheets testify to a rather peculiar contact between the colonizing administration and the colonized peoples. I argue that the production of data made encounters necessary, which are best observed though a methodological focus on data practices. I argue, furthermore, that the Pohnpeians were prompted during the surveys to define their homestead in new terms. This did not only entail new two-dimensional plots but also a new regime of private property. The change in the legal concept can be seen as a continuation of colonial violence by other means, given that it happened in the aftermath of the defeated Pohnpei Rebellion. The argument of the paper is, therefore, that data collection can have formative effects on society, and that measurement and quantified information are often, as Witold Kula argued, a scene of conflict. At its core, the installation of these metric regimes signified a change in patterns of justification, resource management and the unwritten constitution of the Pacific island.