Health statistics produce particular kinds of knowledge, and decision- and profit-making that are not innocent. "The numbers" are calculations of health, but calculations made at a distance. They make the messiness of human health seem ordered and controllable, even when health is not. In this colloquium, we discuss how health statistics operate as transnational artifacts in the business of global health. Ethnographic and descriptive data from two very different countries, Sierra Leone and Germany, show how statistics are not quite what they seem, despite their being employed in global health fields as if they are freely formed and objective. Empirically rich data from both countries help us analyze how numbers organize people and constitute subject positions, but do not always improve health.
Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), The African Studies Center (ASC), Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the program in Science, Technology & Society.