- “Wealth and Poverty of African States” Seminar in Cambridge 30 Jan
- African Economic History Network Meetings
- Global Health Seminar, Copenhagen 22 June 2017, 12:30-14:00
- Public talk: ‘What Economists Get Wrong about Africa’ @AU_SIS March 29
- Guest Lecture ‘Why Economists Got Africa Wrong’ @LauderInstitute April 11
International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric) at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences is calling for applications for PhD positions. The positions are fully funded, and are enumerated as full time job according to Norwegian regulations. Full details of all the positions here.
One of the positions calls for proposals on the politics of numbers. Candidates can have masters degree in any background. The full description of this position (and instructions on how to apply) is found here. Here’s an excerpt:
The use of numbers, performance indicators and benchmarks have grown exponentially over the last two decades, particularly in the field of international politics and development. Indicators are now firmly established as a distinct mode of global governance. The process of numbering involves translating complex phenomena into numerical values. The procedure converts what might otherwise be highly contentious normative agendas into numbers that appear technocratic and objective. The politics of numbers has implications for global governance, and particularly so for making norms, rules and regulations in the fields of International Environment and Development Studies. We are seeking a PhD proposal with a foundation in an International Relations and/or International Political Economy perspective that studies topics of importance in International Environment and Development Studies.
When starting to work on your proposal you might want to take some inspiration from some of the recent literature. I have made some short summaries here and here. If you are considering to apply and you have questions, you are of course very welcome to contact me.
— Morten Jerven (@MJerven) February 18, 2016
In Cambridge? You are in luck. I will be giving a talk at the Cambridge Society for Economic Pluralism. I am really looking forward to it. Free to attend.
On Sunday 13 December I was speaking about my book at the CBC Sunday Edition. Listen to the recording here.
A few weeks back I was on the Economic Rockstar Podcast – listen to the episode here.
I am really looking forward to the annual African Studies meetings in San Diego.
I will be giving two papers. I give one paper on Friday morning in “State Building, States, and State Transformation in Africa: Legacies, Impacts, Consequences and Solutions” (Friday, Nov 20, 8:30-10:15am, V-P-2) and then a second paper at the ASA Roundtable on Methods Saturday November 21 8:30-10:15. I will be speaking on studying Africa by numbers.
I will also be giving an informal presentation of my book. Join me at the University of Chicago Press booth (#305) on Saturday, 4 PM for some wine and a chat about “Africa: Why Economists Get It Wrong“.
There is a rise of indicators. The so called data revolution is finding its feet, so I do not expect it to let up anytime soon. The Economist provided one overview in their report on ‘How to lie with indices‘.
As one would expect there is now a ballooning literature to match the rise of indicators. The early and leading contributions in this literature emerged from Law and Anthropology (sometimes cross-disciplinary work), but now International Relations and Political Science is following. Economics is as far as I can tell still on the sidelines. Anthropology and ‘Constructivism’ within International Relations has a natural comparative advantage in approaching data as social products. On the other hand, economists, statisticians and political scientists of the positivist mold, have a mountain to climb.
I hope there will be a gradual shift in all disciplines towards approaching indicators critically as ‘products’ rather than the mainstream approach of being uncritical consumers of indicators. All these indicators are entering the realm of ‘as if’ governance.
We all know, I hope, that the Freedom House actually does not measure ‘democracy’; that the Consumer Price Index does not actually measure ‘inflation’; nor does Transparency International actually measure ‘corruption’. We just pretend ‘as if’ they do. We are in deep trouble if we forget that we are making decisions or doing analytic research ‘as if’ these things could actually be counted.
Despite the many publications I think there are still many holes in our knowledge. There is a further need for empirical research on the lines of ‘political ethnography of indicators’. Particularly is there a gap in theory and empirical studies on the line of causality from ‘data’ to ‘decisions’. There is also a surprising gap on knowledge of what makes a good indicator, and what does not. Here’s a sample of books coming in 2015 and 2016.
- The Quiet Power of Indicators: Measuring Governance, Corruption, and Rule of Law Sally Engle Merry, Kevin Davis, Benedict Kingsbury, eds. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Governance by Indicators: Global Power through Classification and Rankings, Kevin Davis, Angelina Fisher, Benedict Kingsbury, and Sally Engle Merry, eds. Oxford University Press 2012, paperback 2015.
- Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance, Alexander Cooley and Jack Snyder, eds. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- On Governance: What It Is, What It Measures and Its Policy Uses, Robert I. Rotberg, ed. CIGI, 2015.
- A World of Indicators Richard Rottenburg, Sally Engle Merry, Johanna Mugler, and Songi Park, eds. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- The MDGs, Capabilities and Human Rights: The power of numbers to shape agendas, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Alicia Ely Yamin, eds. Routledge 2015.
- The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Violence against Women, and Human Trafficking, Sally Engle Merry, University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2016.
The event is free to attend, and there will be refreshments. There will also be copies of the books for sale.
I will also discuss isues covered in my book on Wednesday 23 September at 1pm at the Overseas Development Institute. The event is called: Understanding economic transformation in Africa. There is an impressive line up of commentators and speakers: Blandina Kilama - Senior Researcher, REPOA, Tanzania, Nick Crafts – Professor of Economics and Economic History at the University of Warwick and Louise Fox – Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley. The event is chaired by Dirk Willem te Velde - Director, Supporting Economic Transformation, ODI.
Want to prepare yourself with some clever comments from recent book reviews? Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong was reviewed the Africa at LSE blog, in the Financial Times and in the Washington Post’s Monkeycage blog last week. The International Development blog at LSE also wrote about the book here. Quoting from Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne‘s review here:
Jerven’s book is controversial and has already provoked debate. His points are elegantly argued and although he delves into extremely technical economic concepts and methods, “Africa: Why Economists Get It Wrong” is readable and easy for a nonspecialist to understand. But specialists in particular must read Jerven, and take seriously his claims.
The response to my book has been an overwhelmingly positive. I always knew it would divide opinion. Alex De Waal did perhaps provide the most encouraging and ringing support with a review titled “Liberating African Economic History from the Tyranny of Econometrics”
Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong is a slender but important book. It is a charter for liberating African economic policymaking from the tyranny of econometricians.
— Ken Opalo (@kopalo) June 25, 2015
I was thrilled to see that the Economist reviewed it and followed up by a nice set of tweets.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) July 28, 2015
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) July 28, 2015
I wrote something about the book for New African Magazine. If you want a taste of the introduction – go here – if you need to read an excerpt of the conclusion – click this – and if you want to hear me talk about the book you can pick between Owen Barder at Development Drums or Russ Roberts at Econtalk.