Official Statistics and the State
I’m interested in the sociology and history of statistics. The state has a special role in the use of statistical knowledge and methods, historically as the main instigator of statistical collection, and still now as a privileged producer and consumer of statistical knowledge and technique. Contemporary official statistics thus have a ‘dual membership’, both governed by universalistic scientific principles and also reasons of state. Technological development also means that official statistics increasingly function as part of the routine apparatus of governance, enabling the state’s grasp of distant and increasingly small objects of its concern. In this field of research I’m thus interested in both the epistemic aspects of statistics (classifications & techniques) and in their practical and political use as significant numbers.
My doctoral research is investigating the production of poverty and income statistics in Germany and Britain from 1975. It is starting by looking at the categories, measurements and geographical systems that were used in the two countries, and then looking more closely at the institutional forms and relations within which these arose.
Poor Neighbourhoods, Housing, the City
My research over the past eight years or so has been focussed on poor neighbourhoods and on housing systems. This has been mainly in the UK and mostly oriented to public policy. My empirical work has looked at the long-term persistence of neighbourhood concentrations of unemployment and poverty and its connection to deindustrialisation, the idea and reality of ‘social mix’ and its deployment in regeneration policy, and, more recently, cuts to public rent subsidies (Housing Benefit) and the way they will reinforce the displacement of low-income households from the inner city, with a particular interest in London.
Underlying this is a broader interest in both methodological and sociological questions that arise in investigating poverty as a spatial phenomenon and thus at different scales. So I’m interested in whether spatially concentrated poverty in cities simply reflects the unequal distribution of income and wealth in societies, and why poor neighbourhoods (as oppposed to poverty in general) stimulate debate and intervention; the ways in which land and housing are treated as either tradeable commodities or rights; how urban change, such as ‘gentrification’, can be understood either in through class or through economic analysis; and how people’s lives are shaped and structured by ‘neighbourhood’.
There are plenty of other things which I enjoy reading about, but in which I have no special expertise - for example, the anthropology of work and industrial life; the sociology of technology and computing, human-computer interaction; phenomenological philosophy, esp. Heidegger; spatial, land and labour economics.