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The Statistical Table as Colonial Knowledge


The statistical table is one expression of the settler colonial capacity and willingness to enumerate colonized “peoples” as “populations.” By examining four tables—from 1763, 1828, 1848, and 1850—in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia this paper illustrates the emergence of this powerful technique of representation during the same a period in which European states were developing their capacity to represent the social in statistical terms. In the colonial context, the rise of the notion of a “population” whose characteristics could be averaged contributed to the specifically administrative eclipse of native sovereignty, paralleling the jural/political demise of native sovereignty.

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Tim Rowse is a Professor Emeritus in the Institute of Culture and Society (Western Sydney University) and a School Visitor in the Research School of Social Sciences (The Australian National University). He has been studying settler colonial history (mainly Australian) since the early 1980s. His most recent book is Rethinking Social Justice: From “Peoples” To “Populations” (Aboriginal Studies Press 2012); with Lisa Ford he edited Between Indigenous and Settler Governance (Routledge 2012).

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