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    978-0-8223-7074-1
  • "This book is going to find a wide audience throughout and beyond global health and anthropology—Crystal Biruk's attention to language and metaphor makes Cooking Data eminently teachable. This is superior scholarship that is very well grounded in everyday life and the peculiar world of research. I learned a great deal." — Claire Wendland, author of, A Heart for the Work: Journeys through an African Medical School

    "This is not a simple revelation story in which we learn that data in research projects is socially contingent. It is a cultural study of demography research in the field, and the end product is the best we can do in anthropology—familiar things are made unfamiliar, conditional, and fragile. Crystal Biruk's work is quite simply fantastic." — Vincanne Adams, author of, Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith: New Orleans in the Wake of Katrina

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  • Description

    In Cooking Data Crystal Biruk offers an ethnographic account of research into the demographics of HIV and AIDS in Malawi to rethink how quantitative health data is produced. While research practices are often understood within a clean/dirty binary, Biruk shows how data is never clean; rather, it is always “cooked” during its production and inevitably entangled with the lives of those who produce it. Examining how the relationships among fieldworkers, supervisors, respondents, and foreign demographers shape data, Biruk demonstrates how 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.

    About The Author(s)

    Crystal Biruk is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Oberlin College.
Fall 2017
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