Producing Population

Ruppert, Evelyn S. (2007). Producing Population. ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), Milton Keynes, UK.



This paper develops a theoretical approach for understanding how the census has not only played a role in constructing population (census making) but has simultaneously created subjects with the capacity to recognize themselves as members of a population (census taking). The ‘population’ is now generally considered something that is not discovered but constructed. But what is neglected is that the population is also produced one subject at a time. The paper provides an account of census taking as a practice of double identification (state-subject) through which subjects have gradually, and fitfully, acquired the capacity to recognize themselves as part of the population through the categories circulated by the census (subjectification) and the state has come to identify the subject and assemble the population (objectification). The approach is elaborated in an account of a particular moment in the creation of census subjects, the self-identification and discovery of individuals as ethnically ‘Canadian’ in the early part of the twentieth century. Through this account I suggest that the capacities and agencies of being a census subject are connected to citizenship and the claiming of social and political rights.

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