Cultural Politics in an Age of Statistics: Numbers, Nations and the Making of Basque Identity

1993 American Ethnologist 20(4):818-843.

By Jacqueline Urla


This article examines the public uses of language surveys and census data by militant and moderate Basque nationalist language organizations during the first few years of Basque political autonomy. As part of a modern regime of truth that equates knowledge with measurement, statistics occupy a privileged position of authority that gives them heightened rhetorical power in a context of competing political ideologies. Analysis focuses on how specific ways of categorizing and displaying data on Basque speakers create an image of the Basque nation "at risk" and, at the same time, introduce new ways of envisioning the language community, the Basque speaker, and his or her duties to the nation. I conclude by discussing the implications that minority uses of statistics may have for theorizing resistance and the social construction of identities.