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Failure by the numbers? Settlement statistics as indicators of state performance in South African land restitution

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2015
Author Zenker Olaf,
Project Land restitution and the moral modernity of the new South African state
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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book A world of indicators: the making of governmental knowledge through quantification
Editor , Rottenburg Richard
Publisher Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
Page(s) 102 - 126
ISBN 9781107450837
Title of proceedings A world of indicators: the making of governmental knowledge through quantification


The twenty-first century has seen a further dramatic increase in the use of quantitative knowledge for governing social life after its explosion in the 1980s. Indicators and rankings play an increasing role in the way governmental and non-governmental organizations distribute attention, make decisions, and allocate scarce resources. Quantitative knowledge promises to be more objective and straightforward as well as more transparent and open for public debate than qualitative knowledge, thus producing more democratic decision-making. However, we know little about the social processes through which this knowledge is constituted nor its effects. Understanding how such numeric knowledge is produced and used is increasingly important as proliferating technologies of quantification alter modes of knowing in subtle and often unrecognized ways. This book explores the implications of the global multiplication of indicators as a specific technology of numeric knowledge production used in governance.