Population Geometries of Europe
The Topologies of Data Cubes and Grids
Science, Technology & Human Values , Volume 45 - Issue 2 p. 235- 261
The political integration of the European Union (EU) is fragile for many reasons, not least the reassertion of nationalism. That said, if we examine specific practices and infrastructures, a more complicated story emerges. We juxtapose the political fragility of the EU in relation to the ongoing formation of data infrastructures in official statistics that take part in postnational enactments of Europe’s populations and territories. We develop this argument by analyzing transformations in how European populations are enacted through new technological infrastructures that seek to integrate national census data in “cubes” of cross-tabulated social topics and spatial “grids” of maps. In doing so, these infrastructures give meaning to what “is” Europe in ways that are both old and new. Through standardization and harmonization of social and geographical spaces, “old” geometries of organizing and mapping populations are deployed along with “new” topological arrangements that mix and fold categories of population. Furthermore, we consider how grids and cubes are generative of methodological topologies by closing the distances or differences between methods and making their data equivalent. By paying attention to these practices and infrastructures, we examine how they enable reconfiguring what is known and imagined as Europe and how it is governed.