Making measures, marking maps: NUTS2 as ethnographic object

Type Paper
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2019
EventDas Ende der Aushandlungen?: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie - Konstanz, Germany
Duration: 29 Sep 201903 Oct 2019


ConferenceDas Ende der Aushandlungen?
Abbreviated titleDGSKA2019
Period29 Sep 201903 Oct 2019
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In EU regional development policy, maps make metrics – and metrics make maps. Though in political discourse and public imaginations ‘the economy’ can seem as material and measurable as a heartbeat or temperature, metrics are contingent objects, negotiated into place. How does the EU take measures? How do the social lives of measures move through policies, rendered animate by their makers? In this paper, I turn my ethnographic attention to the Nomenclature des Unités Territoriales Statistiques (NUTS), the territorial classification system used to map the EU for quantifying purposes. Drawing from fieldwork in Brussels and Cymru Wales and from the anthropology of policy, I focus on NUTS2, a division smaller than a nation, but larger than a municipality. NUTS2 metrics matter because they are used to allocate EU funding to the ‘less developed’ regions that light up luridly on the statistical map; they are contingency made concrete. By treating NUTS2 as what Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett calls an ethnographic object – though one made by Eurocrats, not ethnographers – I aim to attend to the processes of detachment and segmentation that make maps for metrics, metrics from maps.


  • Territorial cohesion, European Union, metrics