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Job Talk: Medical Anthropology Faculty
February 22 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
2/22/2018—4 pm—CSE E252—Crystal Biruk
“Cooking Data: Culture and Politics in an African Research World”
Drawing on ethnographic work as an “anthropologist among the demographers,” this talk traces the social lives of quantitative health data collected at the household level in rural Malawi that become statistics that inform policy and planning. Whereas survey researchers since the colonial era have framed ‘unskilled’ African data collectors as liabilities whose activities dirty or “cook” data, this talk undoes racialized suspicions by arguing that epistemic standards for good numbers are achieved not despite, but because of, their customization by fieldworkers in the field. It is in the field where surveys are administered to poor rural households that we can gain insight into what projects mean for the people involved in them, as well as what kinds of worlds, transactions, and persons they bring into being along the way, regardless of whether they succeed or fail in their intentions, or measure or mismeasure social realities.
Crystal Biruk is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, and a member of the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (GSFS) faculty at Oberlin College. Her forthcoming book, Cooking Data, will appear in Duke’s Critical Global Health Studies series (2018), and she has published in venues including Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Medical Anthropology, Journal of Modern African Studies, and Critical Public Health. She is working on a second book titled Gay for Pay: The Labor of LGBT Vulnerability in Malawian NGO Worlds that examines how young LGBT-identified Malawians navigate circuits of resource distribution and undergo queer becomings at the intersection of global health and human rights programming. Her research and teaching interests are at the intersection of medical anthropology, science studies, and gender and sexuality studies.