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Measuring Matters: Histories of Assessing Inequality

5-7 July 2017

Alison Richard Building, Sidgwick Site



Pedro Ramos Pinto (University of Cambridge)

Poornima Paidipaty (University of Cambridge)



As economic and social inequalities continue to raise global concern, the framing and understanding of inequality as a problem is fundamentally linked to the way it is measured.  Whether it is the use of GINI coefficients, multi-component indices for measuring human development, or the increasing use of bio-metrics in the contemporary and historical study of inequality, how we gauge and measure disparity defines both the shape of our concerns and the sites of future interventions.

Measures of inequality have a history that matters. Contemporary understandings of inequality are connected to contingent past choices about measures and objects of measurement. Such choices took place in specific historical, social and political contexts. This conference aims to ask how such contexts influence the making and nature of measurement. What kinds of measurement are created in more or less equal sites of production, and how does the ownership of measurement influence the knowledge that is produced? Equally, how do different contexts influence how measurements are interpreted and used?

Once available, how do measurements of inequality gain broad political and ideological acceptance, and where do they face resistance?  When and how are “counter-measures” produced?  How do measures that are devised in particular and possibly exceptional contexts travel and find acceptance in other social and historical locations?  How and why did income come to play such a central role in our accounts of disparity?  How are ideas about citizenship, rights, and political subjectivity shaped by our metrics for gauging inequality? 

The conference will combine intensive closed workshops with two public events on the topic.


Public Events - open to all

Both events will take place in the Alison Richard Building.


Wednesday 5 July, 5pm - 6.30pm

Keynote lecture by Professor Alice O’Connor

'Divided Democracy: Wealth and Economic Citizenship in the Age of Capital’.


Friday 7 July, 1pm - 2.30pm

Keynote lecture by Professor Sanjay Reddy and a roundtable on the topic of 'Inequality and Measurement: Past, Present and Future'.

Title TBC

The roundtable will be aimed at engaging with current practice and policy, engaging with a wider academic and non-academic public, and bringing into the conference other perspectives, debates and questions. 

For further information and contact: