Cultural Dimensions of Power/Knowledge: The Challenges of Measuring Violence against Women

Sally Engle Merry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    International governance, like all contemporary modes of governance, increasingly operates by means of quantitative measurements. Issues such as corruption, the rule of law, academic achievement, compliance with human rights norms, and accountability are generally translated into numbers and indicators. As quantification becomes ever more central to governance, it is critical to examine the cultural and social theoretical frameworks within which measurement systems are developed. A comparison of four cultural approaches to measuring violence against women globally shows that there are significant differences in what is made visible and what is disappeared in each one. Moreover, the organizations that promote these different approaches vary significantly in power and resources. Those generated by better resourced organizations come to dominate the definition of a phenomenon, such as violence against women, and the way it is understood. Ultimately, this shapes the way it is governed. Since regulation and governance depend on what quantitative data makes visible, these slippages have important implications for the practice of global governance.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)370-380
    Number of pages11
    JournalSociologie du Travail
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


    • Global Governance
    • Human Rights
    • Indicators
    • Power/knowledge
    • Quantification
    • Violence against Women

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Industrial relations
    • Sociology and Political Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Cultural Dimensions of Power/Knowledge: The Challenges of Measuring Violence against Women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this