“[To] kill an elephant with a fly gun”: The Data Politics of the EEOC, 1965-1978

Mikey McGovern, History of Science

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:00pm
LAPA Conference Room, 348 Wallace Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

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LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Precis:  "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defined by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was deemed by many to be a "toothless tiger," stumbling through its first few years of existence without any real enforcement powers. During this time, however, the commission doubled down on data collection and analysis while articulating legal concepts that could make use of this research, creating a basis for defining discrimination using statistical evidence in order to shift the burden of proof from plaintiff to defendant. In this talk, I consider how the commission crafted and mobilized epistemologies of inequality, some of which were arguably novel. While these frameworks operationalized social scientific expertise in the fight against job discrimination, they also opened up a space for criticisms of race and gender essentialism in the data, and even the production of counter-expertise."

NOTE: There is no pre-circulated paper for this talk. Instead, there will be a presentation preceded by some framing, and followed by open-ended discussion.

Mikey McGovern
History of Science

Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used discrimination statistics to argue about rights in 1970s America, and what this means for histories of bureaucracy, quantification, law, politics, and race.