ABOUT THIS BOOK
In Cooking Data Crystal Biruk offers an ethnographic account of research into the demographics of HIV and AIDS in Malawi to rethink the production of quantitative health data. While research practices are often understood within a clean/dirty binary, Biruk shows that data are never clean; rather, they are always “cooked” during their production and inevitably entangled with the lives of those who produce them. Examining how the relationships among fieldworkers, supervisors, respondents, and foreign demographers shape data, Biruk examines the ways in which units of information—such as survey questions and numbers written onto questionnaires by fieldworkers—acquire value as statistics that go on to shape national AIDS policy. Her approach illustrates how on-the-ground dynamics and research cultures mediate the production of global health statistics in ways that impact local economies and formulations of power and expertise.
“A brilliant example of an ethnography of global health. Crystal Biruk offers a very insightful, convincingly argued and well-substantiated account of the effects of what has become the most common type of research not only in global health but the development industry more generally.”
-- Anna Wolkenhauer LSE Review of Books
"Bookended by a thoughtful introduction and conclusion . . . I recommend this book to anyone who does survey work in Africa. . . . Its prose is scholarly but accessible and Biruk does a good job of marrying theoretical concepts to real world examples."
-- Kevin Fridy Journal of Modern African Studies
"Cooking Data succeeds . . . by giving life to the trajectory of data from raw to cooked and troubling what we think we know about what happens in the field."
-- Monica Grant Population and Development Review
"Impressive in its focus and scope, Cooking Data makes a clear and compelling case for the social thickness of numbers. . . . This is a substantive contribution to our understanding of the role of data in global health."
-- Damien Droney Somatosphere
"Cooking Data is a powerful critique of the understanding that survey data are an objective and complete representation of reality. . . . I strongly recommend using this publication as a required reading in undergraduate and graduate courses in Anthropology, Demography, Sociology, and related social sciences that teach students to design and conduct qualitative as well as quantitative research. Further, those interested in African Studies, Global Health, and International Development will tremendously benefit from reading this publication as these disciplines are strongly influenced by survey research. The book is also a must-read for agencies, policy makers, and funding agencies. . . ."
-- Alexander Rödlach Anthropos
“The continued relevance of Biruk’s work is clear in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic…. At a time when trust in numbers is increasingly shaken, Biruk offers nuanced insights on the production of numbers that prompts discussion about the role of feminist science studies to both critically examine how numbers attain their authority and simultaneously build capacity for fact based decision making in a post-truth era where powerful leaders intentionally spread harmful misinformation.”
-- Angela Okune Catalyst
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