The Politics of Indicators
  • Entretien avec Interview with Alain Blum — Directeur de recherche — INED/EHESS (CERCEC)
Juliette Cadiot — Maîtresse de conférences — EHESS (CERCEC)
Alain Blum is a demographer, as well as an historian of statistical machineries. He offers his thoughts on the historicization and politicization of demographical tools pulled from his deep knowledge of the history of demography. Speaker of Russian language, he is a specialist of soviet history. He analyzes the demography as well as the machinery of statistics in the USSR. As a demographer he uses individual sources to extract demographic descriptions, which differ from governmental ones.
One life, one research itinerary.
Interview published on 01-23-2018
Last modified on 04-11-2018
Original language: English Lire la version French
  • Biography
  • Bibliography of Alain Blum
  • Interview’s bibliography

Alain Blum is a French historian, demographer and statistician born in 1958. He graduated from l’Ecole Polytechnique before turning to demography. He participated in a French National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED) demographic survey on mobility together with Maurizio Gribaudi: they both used individual sources. Alain Blum is a specialist of Russian-speaking societies. His PhD dissertation, defended in 1992 under the supervision of Marc Ferro, dealt with the soviet demographic systems. In the book that came out of his work, Naître, vivre et mourir en URSS, the author analyzes the history of USSR’s demography, statistical tools and demographic machinery. In 1994, he became a Senior Researcher at the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), methods and previsions department. He later became Associate Senior Researcher at the École de hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), and directed the Center of Russian, Caucasian and Central European Studies (CERCEC) until 2012. In the debate that took place in France in the 2000’s on “ethnic statistics”, Alain Blum took position against “ethnic statistics”, criticizing the surveys developed at the INED by the team “Trajectories and Origins” directed by Patrick Simon. This debate echoed an earlier controversy within the INED, that opposed, ten years before, his mentor Hervé Le Bras to Michèle Tribalat, who conducted a survey on immigration. His current research focuses on forced displacements of population through the analysis of ‘special deportees’ trajectories ; Alain Blum reflects on the relationship between political violence and demographic and social transformations. He is part of a project on the Oral Archives of the Gulag.

(with Yuri Shapoval), Faux coupables: surveillance, aveux et procès en Ukraine soviétique, 1924-1934: l'exemple de M. Gruševskij et S. Efremov, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2012.

(with France Guérin-Pace, Hervé Le Bras), “La statistique, piège ethnique”, Le Monde, 10 novembre 2007.

Naître, vivre et mourir en URSS [1994], Paris, Payot, 2004.

(with Martine Mespoulet), L’Anarchie bureaucratique. Statistique et pouvoir sous Staline, Paris, La Découverte, 2003.

(with France Guérin-Pace), Des lettres et des chiffres. Des tests d'intelligence à l'évaluation du « savoir lire », un siècle de polémique, Paris, Fayard, 2000.

“Comment décrire les immigrés? À propos de quelques recherches sur l’immigration”, Population, n° 3, 1998, p. 569-588.

Démographie et politique en Russie. Problèmes politiques et sociaux, Paris, La Documentation française, 1993.

(with Maurizio Gribaudi), “Les déclarations professionnelles. Pratiques, inscriptions, sources”, Annales E.S.C., vol. 48, n° 4, 1993, p. 987-995.

“La démographie de l'Union soviétique”, in Annales de Démographie historique, Paris, Éditions de l'EHESS, 1992.

Mathématiques et statistiques appliquées aux sciences sociales, Paris, Dunod, 1991.

(with Maurizio Gribaudi), “Des catégories aux liens individuels: l’analyse statistique de l’espace social”, Annales, vol. 45, no 45, 1990, p. 1365‑1402.

Maurizio Gribaudi, Itinéraires ouvriers. Espaces et groupes sociaux à Turin dans la première moitié du XXe siècle, Paris, Éditions de l'EHESS, 1987.

Alain Desrosières, Laurent Thévenot, Les Catégories socioprofessionnelles, Paris, La Découverte, 1988.

Alain Desrosières, La Politique des grands nombres: histoire de la raison statistique, Paris, La Découverte, 1993.

Michèle Tribalat, Faire France: une grande enquête sur les immigrés et leurs enfants, Paris, La Découverte, 1995.

Paul Schor, Compter et classer. Histoire des recensements américains, Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, 2009.

Cris Beauchemin, Christelle Hamel, Patrick Simon, Trajectoires et origines: enquête sur la diversité des populations en France, Paris, INED éditions, 2015.