The idea of measurement is inevitably invoked as we talk about almost anything: time, politics, objects, space, economics, race, class, mind, identity, culture, society, body, arts, nature and so on. The disciplinary fields in which ideas of measurement play an especially important role are contested and imbued with political and epistemic struggle Once measurements are in place they are treated as inevitable and resist new forms of ordering, even as measurements are always being established and transformed with the historical unfolding of human events. How do individuals, knowing that our measures are only those of fallible human perception, understand the seeming objectivity of measurements?  What are the standards by which we measure the physical, social, moral, and creative worlds, and how do they change? How do the units and tools of measurement impact our understanding and evaluation of spaces, subjectivities, objects, times, and ideas? How do methods of measurement shape the social, political and intellectual spheres in which they are employed? How can we challenge them?


This conference seeks to bring together graduate students from a variety of fields and disciplines in order to comparatively explore the idea of measurement, in all forms of political, linguistic, social and cultural expression. We seek to illuminate the concept of measurement through exploring the manifold ways in which it has been employed. We invite all papers that consider ideas of measurements, tools of measurements, politics of measurement, cultural and linguistic specificity of measurements, and self-consciousness in the construction and use of measurements. Both interrogations of the concept of measurement and examinations of particular instances in which measurements have been inventively employed are welcome.


The keynote speaker for the ICLS Graduate Student Conference:


Professor Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University


This conference is free and open to the public.



9:00am-9:30am Coffee and light refreshments


9:30am-11:00am Panel One: Incommensurability and the Politics of Measurement


  1. Katherine Fry, (University of Toronto): Incommensurability in Methodologies of Comparison


  1. Katie Kadue, (University of California, Berkeley): Invisible Empires: Immeasurable Intellectual Labor in Erasmus, Hooke, and Du Bellay


  1. Sophia Sunseri, (University of Toronto): The Incommensurability of Past and Present: An Exploration of Subjectivity in “Philomena and Procne”


Discussant: Dr. Eleanor Johnson (Columbia University)


11:15am-11:45am  Keynote Address: HOW TO THINK ABOUT MEASUREMENT


Keynote Speaker:Dr. Steven Shapin (Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University)


12:00-1:30pm  Break


1:45pm-3:00pm  Panel Two: Measuring Material and Experience in History


  1. Kaijun Chen, (Columbia University): How Much does a Qianlong Vase cost? Regulation and Precedents on Price and Wage of Ceramic Production


  1. Yiren Zheng, (Columbia University): Before Writing: Child Image in Premodern Chinese Literature


  1. Rob Goodman, (Columbia University): Machiavelli’s Measured Advisor


Discussant: Dr. Zara Anishanslin (Columbia University)


3:15pm-4:45pm  Panel Three: Regulating Psychological and Physical Space


  1. James Graham, (Columbia University): Modeling Cities, Modeling Citizens: Psychotechnical Subjectivity and the City of Rationalized Rest, 1927-30


  1. Jason Resnikoff, (Columbia University): Reaping the Whirlwind: American Psychologists and the First World War; or, An Introduction to Warspace


  1. Earl Perez-Foust, (University of California, Santa Barbara): Narratives of Legitimacy: Kilometer Zero and the Spatialized Temporal Dislocations in Rizal Park


  1. Phillip Schauss, (New School for Social Research): Building (and) the ‘aesthetics’ of regularity


Discussant: Dr. Reinhold Martin (Columbia University)


5:00pm-6:30pm  Panel Four: Measuring the Body


  1. Siri Suh, (Columbia University): When Abortion Doesn’t Count: The Practice and Politics of Measuring Abortion in Senegalese Hospitals


  1. Dora Zhang, (Princeton University): Identifying the Criminal Body: Alphonse Bertillon and the Language of Measurement


  1. Johanna Magin, (Columbia University): Individual Experience and Universal Authority: Measuring Health and Happiness from an Early Modern’s Perspective


Discussant: Dr. Rishi Goyal (Columbia University)