Visualizing Society: Immigrant Integration Expertise As a Sphere of Calculability

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 417
Oral Presentation
Sanne BOERSMA , Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
This paper regards the field of immigrant integration expertise in Western Europe as a sphere of calculability (Mitchell, 2002) in which projections of future conditions of society are visualized in images such as tables, graphs and designs. The expert images produced by monitoring institutions and social scientific networks can be understood as crucial sites where (future) differences of national populations crystalize and gain plausibility.

In social scientific studies and reports of immigrant integration, produced both on national and European level, the future condition of national societies in Western Europe is problematized and discussed by the growing presence of the ‘non-western’ or ‘immigrant’ population. For example, a Eurostat working paper of 2010 on the foreign-born population in EU countries states that “the share of foreign-born is likely to more than double by 2061”, which emphasizes a stable trend of ‘non-western’ presence in national societies. The images in the reports demonstrate socially constructed differences and a careful maintenance of these differences, expressed through standardized categories of alterity (Castoriadis) vis-à-vis a homogenous ‘native’ population in national societies. As such, the contested (future) condition of society is stabilized. 

This paper seeks insight in how future projections of ‘non-western’ presence in West-European societies come about and how the field of immigrant integration expertise can be perceived as what Timothy Mitchell has called a “sphere of calculability” i.e. framing, drawing limits, measuring and visualizing (Mitchell, 2002). By doing ethnographic research at the “centres of calculation” (Latour, 1987) in combination with document analysis this paper aims to show how immigrant integration is made into a field of challenges, strategies, demand and importance, subsequently effectuating particular logics of visualizing national societies.