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Indexology, Human Ranking, and Pseudo-Science: A Critical Perspective From The Global South

Indexology, Human Ranking, and Pseudo-Science: A Critical Perspective From The Global South

Lecture by Steve Ratuva, University of Canterbury

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Rolfe Hall 2125

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One of the latent consequences of neoliberalism is the compartmentalization, stratification, and commodification of knowledge which find expression in the reinvention of pseudo-science and re-articulation of social Darwinism clothed in the modernist parlance. An applied manifestation of this is the widespread use of “quantifiable” indexes to ascertain a society’s rank in a global hierarchy of “progress.” Almost all the social indexes constructed in the last few decades, such as Human Development Index, Fragile State Index, Development Index, Governance Index, etc.—used by scholars, international agencies, governments, civil society organizations and policymakers around the world as “scientific” tools for policy—replicate and reinforce the age-old perceptions pertaining to the “advancement” of the “west” in relation to the “retarded” conditions of the “rest.” The presentation explores the technical and ideological underpinnings of indexology, which refers to the construction and application of indexes. It critiques the selective choice of variables to “measure” progress in these sets of indexes and how these variables are shaped by latent ideological, cultural and political partialities. It also critiques the “pseudo-scientific” attempts to quantify subjective and complex human values to serve the demands of the neoliberal order. The political narratives derived from indexology is often used as basis for policy framing and intervention by “western” donors targeted at global South countries. One of the consequences of indexology is the construction of a global hierarchy which institutionalizes the continued subalternization of the global South and associated racialized stereotypes. The policy implications of indexology can be profoundly transformative as some examples from the South Pacific will demonstrate.

Professor Steven Ratuva, a Fijian political sociologist, is Director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies and Professor in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. He is Chair of the International Political Science Association research committee on democratization and the military and project leader and editor in chief of the Palgrave Macmillan-Springer global ethnicity handbook project. He is founding editor-in-chief of the Pacific Dynamics: Journal of Interdisciplinary Research and Pacific Policy Briefs series. Currently, he is in the US as Fulbright senior scholar at UCLA, Duke and Georgetown, carrying out research on horizontal inequality, Pacific minorities and affirmative action in New Zealand and the US. He is an interdisciplinary scholar who crosses the boundaries between sociology, politics, anthropology, economics, development studies, history, Pacific studies and philosophy with a critical thought slant. He has written extensively on nationalism, indigenous knowledge, coups, political transition, affirmative action, social protection, security, development, electoral engineering, ethnicity, conflict, peace and social change.

Sponsor(s): Asia Pacific Center, Asian American Studies Department