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Seminar on Social Categories in Population Studies

Cairo, Egypt, September 15 – 18, 1999
Organised by the IUSSP Committee on Anthropological Demography & The New Arab Demography Project of the Social Research Center at the American university in Cairo


The seminar on 'Social Categories in Population Research' took place on September 15th-18th 1999 in Cairo, Egypt. The seminar was the first scheduled meeting of the IUSSP Committee on Anthropological Demography. It was co-sponsored by the New Arab Demography Project at the Social Research Center (SRC), of the American university in Cairo (AuC). The objectives of this meeting were to raise the issue of social categories into the consciousness of social science researchers, and work on combining the disciplines of anthropology and demography around this issue. The following questions were addressed: What are the historical, political and social contexts in which categories are created? How do categories enter the activities of policy makers, population scientists and ordinary people? How do categories and classifications influence the way we see, understand and measure the world around us? How is the study of demography (within which migration, fertility, mortality and nuptuality fall) affected by systems of social categories used? The conference was organised into ten substantive sessions, with a total of 34 papers presented.

Anthony Carter and Hania Sholkamy spoke briefly as representative members of the IUSSP Committee to welcome conference participants to Cairo and to the conference. Participants were also warmly welcomed by the local co-sponsors, Tim Sullivan (the provost of AuC) and Hoda Rashad (Director of SRC). Hoda Rashad explained how the SRC had developed the New Arab Demography project, with the aim of stretching the boundaries of the demographic discipline in the Arab region, and looking at all aspects of individual well being as opposed to just concentrating on fertility change.

Session 1: Taking Stock of Populations; Identity and the Creation (or Destruction) of Nations

Melissa Nobles (Racial/Colour Categorization on American and Brazilian Censuses) compared the historical development of racial and colour categorization in the uS and the Brazilian censuses. By describing the historical stages of progression of these classifications in detail, she illustrated how the race categories were not mere demographic markers, but rather represented larger political and ideological notions of race across time. Some examples of what these ideologies were: eugenic beliefs about the biological differences between people of different race; immigration policies; the ruling of the elite; and more recently, the movements of civil rights organizations in both countries advocating for the recognition of the politicity in racial and colour category construction. Race and colour categories were thus shaped by political ideology, and simultaneously they were used to shape policies through the political and institutional constitution of race.

Yan Hao's paper on 'Ethnic Category in Population Studies in China' discussed how the category of ethnicity was used by the Chinese State in their process of nation building and state formation. He traced the historicity of ethnic classifications, describing how formative the limitation of ethnic categories was in the creation of the Chinese nation-state. The number of ethnic groups in China is state-designated at the officially fixed number of 56. Although this state-definition has the benefit of easing the process of population categorization, it also prevents a substantial number of people from legally organizing along ethnic lines, and it denies validity to the self-definition of people belonging to some unregistered ethnicities. He described the progression of the ethnic category in Chinese history, and gave examples of category shifting by people wishing to manipulate the state link between ethnicity and resources. The ethnic category became a proxy for matters that have policy implications - for example, it is linked to governmental allowance of higher fertility, it is linked to migration policies, and also to religious policies.

Francine Hirsch ('Towards a Soviet Order of Things: The 1926 Census and the Making of the Soviet union') continued this trend of historical analysis, as she described how the Soviet Empire in the 1920's sought to create the categories of ethnic minorities in order to build up their empire. Once again, the theme arose concerning the political construction of categories by states along with the simultaneous political use of categories by states. Hirsch demonstrated how the creation of the Soviet Empire utilised the social construction of nationalities within its population. This top-down approach saw many nationalities imposed on people, who re-defined themselves in order to fit into the criteria of the nationality. Ethnic categories consequently determined land access, education access, use of certain official languages, as well as recourse to other resources.

Hania Sholkamy gave a brief summary of Saad Nagi's paper on 'Meaning, Functions and Implications of Social Categories', which she described as providing a sociological inquest into categories. The main questions that emerged from this analysis were: What is the most suitable social science to use in the analysis of social categories? And can we use sophisticated analyses on rough processes?

A major link between the four papers was the historical and philosophical light they cast on the relationship between officially prescribed categories and social reality, events and understandings at the time. There was also the consideration of censuses in the process of prescribing categories. Issues raised in discussion included suggestions for widening the scope of the various papers. Another point reiterated was the importance of remembering how the content of social categories were actually utilised in social policies - to justify who got access to education, voting rights, higher fertility allowance in the Chinese family planning system, and land in the Russian case.

Session 2: Classifications and the Creation of Communities

John Bryant & Aree Prohmmo's joint paper on 'Measuring the Population of a Northeast Thai Village' was presented by Aree Prohmmo, and addressed the central question of how a person comes to be included among "the people of our village" in Northeast Thailand. She explained how the classical crisp definitions used by social scientists and historically by the Siamese government are not representative of reality, which tends to be more 'fuzzy'. In reality, ambiguity arises because there are different criteria upon which people define village membership, including aspects such as residence, place of birth, and participation in village life. There is also a fulfilment of membership on a degree basis, so that someone can be considered either a full or partial member of a village. Village membership is also not exclusive, as one person could be a member of two or more villages at the same time. Her presentation argued for the articulation of local definitions in research, to accurately represent complex social realities of village membership with multiple criteria and multiple membership grades.

This presentation was followed by Zhao Zhongwei's paper on 'Registered Households and Micro-social Structure in China; Residential Patterns in Three Settlements in Beijing Area', where the author described the historical and procedural process of household registration in China. By using case-material from surveys conducted in three settlements in the Beijing area, Zhongwei supported his argument that households were not the only component of the social structure. In order for a more accurate picture to be presented, kinship relations between and beyond households have to also be examined. Household registration is used by the government to control the economy, for example by planning commodity distribution. Independent people have a better chance of getting commodities than if they are with their families. Therefore, there has been a strategy to increase family wealth, where some people have been living together, but are registered separately. During discussion, an interesting link between papers in the previous and the current session was made, which questioned the assumption that social categories formulated at a national level were clearly transferred to the local level. Instead, there seemed to be slippage between national policies and local realities, as depicted by the Hirsch and Zhongwei analyses.

Margaret Greene (presenting Brian Greenberg & Margaret Greene's paper on 'Demography's Ecological Frontier: Rethinking the 'Nature' of the Household and Community') discussed how species chauvinism and the lack of appreciation of complex social relationships between humans and their environment was typical of the social science field, especially demography. Malthus' work, which compressed the environmental issue into nature's ability to provide food for people, has been used as the basis for conceptualizing nature, and has circumscribed demography's ability to monitor environmental change. By presenting field work conducted in the Western Himalayas, she demonstrated how the redefinition of common survey categories of 'household' and 'community' according to local understandings would actually entail counting livestock numbers, and considering the health and well-being of the livestock within that community. The research presented urged demography to move away from it common tendency to use quantified and formulaic categories as descriptive of human relationships, and instead to consider more complex social relationships (such as those that exist between man, nature and livestock) when performing its analysis. A 'moral ecology' was advocated, where the issues of culturally informed understandings of the environment and land management practices are explored.

Finally, Reem Saad's paper on 'Community and Community Development in Egypt' described how the commonly used term of 'community' by the international development field was actually ill defined and ambiguous. By examining four examples of community development projects that were carried out in Egypt, Saad illustrated disturbing commonalities in the shortcomings of the category. Firstly, the term community was always understood to refer to a homogenous entity, while in reality dealings would often be with the elite of the community, thereby exacerbating pre-existing power differentials and often neglecting the needs of the un-represented women and the poor. Secondly, the legal and administrative framework in which most community development projects have to work means that a great deal of bureaucracy is necessary. Therefore, in order to get things accomplished, a great deal of resources often have to be spent on 'pacifying' counter-parts and intermediaries. By pointing out that there is no Arabic equivalent term for 'community', Saad further demonstrated how this categorical term is an imposed one, which only serves to homogenise and mask a diverse and heterogeneous reality, often to the detriment of the people it is trying to help. Many of the participants voiced their experience with the same phenomenon, and identified with Saad's analysis. The point was raised about looking at the historical construction of the word 'community', which traces its roots from the sociological terms 'gemeinschaft' and 'geselleschaft', and helped spread the misconception of homogeneity.

Arunachalam Dharmalingham was the discussant for this session, and concluded by outlining aspects of complementarity between the papers. These were: the question of who or what constitutes a category; the internal contradictions and differentiations of a category; the fluidity of categories and how they change over time; and the incongruence between governments and agencies defining and studying groups in a social science, and the subjects of study. Lastly, he said that the papers all argued for a bottom-up approach, where local perspectives taken from the field-level were central to the formation of categories and terms.

Special Session: Youth, generation and aspirations in the context of demographic change in the Middle East

Hania Sholkamy introduced this special session which consisted of presentations from the Youth Working Group of the Middle East Awards Programme and the New Arab Demography Project, explaining that it had been included in order to promote dialogue between regional demographic work and the other presentations. Barbara Ibrahim, Director of the Population Council regional office in Cairo, explained how this recent focus on youth emerged from the lack of clear definition of the term, and the sparsity of information on this social category within Arab regional dialogue.

The first paper by Sahar El-Tawila on 'Youth in the Population Agenda: Concepts and Methodologies' provided an overview of the historical and contemporary position of the concept of 'youth' in demography. The importance of examining the category of youth in demography lies not only in the fact that it currently comprises of one of the largest and growing cohorts, but also that it hitherto has been a socially marginalized and unrepresented group. After examining the international literature and research on youth, a regional perspective was presented, where the relevance of the issues to the Arab region was considered.

Leyla Neyzi's presentation ('Object or subject? The Paradox of Youth in Turkey') continued the theme of justifying the recent focus on youth in the Middle East, and moved on to describe how youth is a historical and cultural construct that changes over time. Providing the context of Turkey, she argued how it was especially important to examine notions of identity of youth in this multi-religious and multi-ethnic state. Research on age can also benefit from linking the literature on youth, culture, age and identity. Randa Farah presented the third paper in this special session, entitled 'By Way of Land or Citizenship: Exile and Return in Palestinian Popular Memory'. Farah's presentation discussed the importance of hearing Palestinian local refugee voices, particularly those of the youth, to examine the way in which popular memory contributed to forging the Palestinian identity. Her ethnographic methodology of taking in-depth narratives and oral histories from refugees of Al'Baq'a camp in Jordan offered examples of the trajectories of refugees in time and place, and how they represent the past in their present discourse.

Hind Wassef's presentation on the paper, 'Caught between Two Worlds: Youth in the Egyptian Hinterland' by Barbara Ibrahim & Hind Wassef, described the content of official Egyptian discourse about youth, portrayed primarily through the media and the state education system. On analysis, this discourse was seen to be quite conservative and distant from the local reality of young people's lives. The presentation followed by describing some of the views of young people themselves, utilizing national survey findings and particularly in-depth case studies of a number of young people from traditional communities in rural upper Egypt. The identities of youth concerning their 'coming of age' process illustrated the existence of both modern and traditional forces. Youth were seen to be facing opposing pressures of modernization and conservatism in this hinterland of rapid social change.

Rana Nashashibi, the discussant of this special session, introduced a psychological component into the forum, by outlining how the state of the world following the breakdown of the Cold War had led to a great deal of ambiguity in society as a whole. The confusion and apathy of society was being projected into youth, she explained. The general discussion that followed saw several participants voice their appreciation of the opportunity to discuss the emerging social category of youth. Further discussion between participants focussed on issues that render youth problematic, and how they were international in scale. For example, the emergence of a 'Generation X' in the USA, with the largest prison population in history. Comments and questions were raised as to the motives of the international community taking an interest in the category of youth, and also on the gender disparities that need to be considered when analysing youth.

Session 4: Linguistics and Meaning - Discourses on Society and Population

Edward Higgs ('The Linguistic Construction of Social and Medical Categories in the Work of the English General Register Office, 1837 - 1950') began by discussing the centrality of language in the construction of social categories. He described the three-tier process of language formation, appropriation and interpretation. He explained that language consists of three components (sign, sense and referent) all of which can vary. Differences in understanding of words are due to this variance. Although categories are not mere linguistic constructions, taking into account the linguistic constructions of categories is important. Within that, thinking of the enumerators is imperative, as they are people who have authority over language formation at a certain time. In his paper, this theory was exemplified by historically investigating the creation of social and medical classifications in the English General Register Office, from the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century.

Philip Kreager followed with his presentation on 'Objectifying Demographic Identities in India'. He described the process of objectification in demography, explaining the process of becoming the truth following the classification and labelling process. He outlined six levels that occur in the process of objectification: (1) People have multiple identities that vary in different situations. (2) The enumerator is involved in recording this identity and influences the language being recorded (3) There is often the tabulation of results, which gradually establishes standards. (4) Placing this process of construction in a historical context is important (5) The process feeds into the normative image of statistical practice and household analysis. (6) There are many examples of the immense process of feedback, for example, in how many babies people should have. using examples from Japanese and Indian literature, Kreager's paper illustrated how statistics become social facts, and are interpreted in social discourse. This evinces the process of objectification, whereby categorization actually makes an object, rather than merely reflecting it.

Charles Briggs' presentation ('Malthus Anti-rhetorical Rhetoric, or, on the Magical Conversion of the Imaginary into the Real') described the cholera epidemic in Venezuela, and exemplified the author's hypothesis of how imagined 'facts' easily become categorised into beliefs about reality. He used this example to demonstrate the regime of metadiscursive practice, that is, the practice that centres on "controlling the production, circulation, reception and legitimization of discourse". During the epidemic, official cases of cholera were reported, where this knowledge was authorised through a privileged epistemological domain (the microbiological knowledge produced in laboratories). The statistics were grounded in and regulated by institutions that had a legal right over the discourse. Institutional specialists (PUBLIC health authorities, who then pass on their information to higher officials, such as PAHO and WHO) controlled this knowledge. It was claimed that certain parts of the population lacked consciousness of the knowledge produced by this specialised regime, and were also deemed incapable of being able to learn it. In this way, poverty, ignorance and membership to an indigenous population became proxies for cholera, and it was suggested that the poor and ignorant could not learn about the proper hygiene, and rejected treatment. This discourse was used to locate subaltern populations in a "geography of blame" (to use Paul Farmer's phrase), whereby structural violence was thus transformed to become the result of individual, irrational and anti-modern decisions made by certain people. Briggs explained the link to Malthus, as Malthus had initially established a regime of metadiscursive practices, which served to naturalise social inequality.

William Hanks, discussant for this session, raised the issue of formal linguistic analysis as related to the issue of the construction of social categories. At the simplest level, the practice of demography concerns the production and reproduction of statistical fact, and that depends on language. Thus language is formative in the creation of demographic fact. After explaining some key linguistic points, Hanks indicated that what is important is that the language used in demographic process doesn’t just reflect the object; instead the terms used actually project the object, as all references are objectified. Therefore categorizing is an activity that makes its object. This process of mapping creates the unity of linguistic form with the object, and all the networks of social relations that made the category become invisible. So demographic categories make objects by fixing identities. Once identities and categories are fixed, they become detached from the object, repeatable and used. They then circulate and pick up all manner of other associations.

He concluded by saying that we need to look at five things: (1) How demographic categories take shape within the discipline of demography. (2) Look at the enumerator at the local level. It would be fascinating to have a tape-recording made of the census-takers and see all that is excised from the official statistics. (3) Look at how categories are taken up by people they are enumerating (those being counted). (4) Look at how the state is going about trying to fix the meaning of the terms. (5) Look at how categories are neutralised, domesticated, where the process of the relationships they are covering become invisible with their familiarity, and give off the appearance of objectivity.

During discussion, Susan Watkins raised the example of project in Malawi where they had asked a certain sample population about their use of contraception in 1993, and again in 1998. The number of people who had 'ever-used' contraception actually decreased in the five years. When analysing this strange phenomenon, it was noticed that the five years had seen the introduction of a family-planning programme in the community, which could have convinced people who had previously used 'traditional' methods, withdrawal, or the rhythm method, that they hadn't actually 'ever-used' contraception. This brief case study was then used by many of the participants in the discussion, to illustrate their points that local level interpretation is important, and how words and categories can change meaning. It was argued that this type of analysis should not bring demography to a halt, but rather allow demographers to refer to problems more effectively and move forward. Another point raised in discussion was that often the enumerator and the enumerated speak different languages, making it important to consider the significance of translation in the analysis of language. Lastly, some participants explained how there are also very attractive features of labelling that should also be recognised, for example in a medical setting when the labelling with a disease brings along the symptoms and treatments to meaning, and also with the case of poor and marginalized people using science and professional discourse to achieve aims.

Session 5: Discourses on Health and Fertility

Denise Roth presented a paper on 'Some unofficial Risks and unintended Consequences of Safe Motherhood Programming', illustrating with her ethnographic work in Tanzania how safe motherhood programmes can have unintended consequences, negatively impacting the health of the very women they are trying to help. This was primarily due to the over-simplification of categories within the field of safe motherhood, most notably with the case of Mrs. X, the story of an anonymous pregnant woman who died giving birth in an anonymous Third World rural setting, which is often used in Safe Motherhood teaching. using the case of a mother giving birth in a rural settlement in Tanzania, Roth argued that the context of maternal health needs to be considered, as well as acknowledging the heterogeneity of women's experiences. Her case study presented the other side of the creation of "official risks" within the Safe Motherhood Programme - the official risks of poverty and illiteracy could mean that a woman is treated as ignorant and inferior by medical staff. Too often, generic policies and programmes have been installed that do not take the issues of heterogeneity and wider social context into account, resulting in problems on implementation such as the reinforcement of power asymmetries, particularly between biomedical staff and patients.

Naomi Pfeffer ('Who Counts? Knowledges of Fertility') argued that it is important to think of who counts in fertility, as well as what is counted (local vs. outside knowledge) and how it is counted (the mechanism of collecting and using statistics). Pfeffer's paper illustrated this argument by presenting the two case studies of abortion and infertility in the uK, describing the history, procedure and collection of data surrounding the two events. She showed drastic contrasts between the case of infertility and that of abortion, illustrating how involuntary childlessness (or 'infecundability' as demography refers to it) disappeared from the political and demographic agendas. In the case of infertility, women are only visible as users of technology; statistics on in-vitro fertilization do not consider the issue of allocative fairness of providing the service within the British health care system; and there is no hint of people having the rights in relation to treatment. While a woman's fertility is seen as a PUBLIC good, a woman's infertility is seen as market potential. Thus, what is known about fertility is dependent on how it is known, and whose views are presented in the information. Pfeffer also raised the issue of ethics at the end of her presentation, and how - as researchers - we should consider the impact of our research on the people being researched.

In her paper on 'users, Non-users, Clients, and Help-Seekers: The use of Categories in Research on Health Behaviour', Carla Makhlouf-Obermeyer discussed various categories that are used in population studies of health behaviour, the assumptions that these categories often make about human behaviour, and the extent to which these assumptions are founded in reality. By presenting two case-studies (one from a health services project in Egypt, and the other from a project on the shift from home to hospital births in Morocco) Obermeyer demonstrated how survey data can be limiting, and how the assumptions often held about human behaviour implicit in the formation of categories are not tenable with local realities. The Egypt case study illustrated the over-simplification and invalidity of the contradictory classifications of 'user's of health-care into the category of either consumer, or as backward and ignorant individual. Case-material from Morocco further illustrated how pregnant women did not fall into either the category of user or non-user when it came to their delivery. Instead, one woman (over the period of her total births) could both use and not use health services for delivery, depending on her personal circumstances at the time, her financial situation, her previous experience or the attitude of health providers at the service on arrival. Thus, the dichotomised clear-cut categories of 'user' or 'non-user' were not valid to define the health behaviour of women delivering, or of people accessing health service in general. The importance of redefining such categories would be the implications it has for policies and programmes.

Hania Sholkamy, discussant for this session, started the discussion by saying that there is often a need for medical closure, and it is this need that sometimes distorts our analysis of demographic data. This categorization of ailments does have some benefits but it also has drawbacks. In the field of reproductive health and fertility studies, we have realised that much of the discourse is dependent on privilege and is constructed. Another point raised was the importance of not only using qualitative methods, but also applying rigorous anthropological theory and analysis along with these methods, in order to avoid the mere 'ethnic' colouring to stories. Participants contributed to some of these ideas in the general discussion, and added the need to look generally at system violence and how that influences the poor and marginalized. The issue of medical syncretism was raised, and Pfeffer's issue of ethics was discussed in the context of creating more formal systems of accountability in demography and social sciences as a whole.

Session 6: Health, Fertility and Family Planning

This session began with Susan Greenhalgh presenting her paper on 'Planned Births, unplanned Persons: Contradictions in China's Socialist Modernization Project', where she demonstrated how the contemporary Chinese state has made excellent use of the technique of social categorization for socio-political control and socio-economic modernization. The social category examined by Greenhalgh is central within China's famed family planning programme, the category of planned/unplanned birth. The unplanned/planned birth category is rooted in the ideological construct of "birth planning", China's distinctive, Marxian-inflicted and Maoist-interpreted approach to population control work. Greenhalgh traced the history of the political formulation of China's population problem, and the position of birth planning within China's modernization pursuit, illustrating how the concept of planned birth emerged. Although planned births take a central role within the Chinese programme, their implicit opposite (unplanned births) receive little bureaucratic concern or expression. The number of unplanned births is not recorded and difficult to estimate, but guess-estimates could place the number within the magnitude of 100 million births (although this number is contested, other estimates also place it as a large number). unplanned births develop into unplanned people, who seem to fall into an illegitimate category that has welfare and resource implications, such as access to the official mechanisms of household registration, schooling, health care, and other such citizenship benefits. There are also emotional implications of the sense of self in a society where one is illegitimate.

Leila El-Zeini ('Categorizing the Need for Family Planning: A Story of Evolution') took a historical approach to trace the evolution of concept of 'unmet need', analysing the changes in the measurement and interpretation of the term in the field of family planning. She traced the emergence of the term as a manifestation of financial inability to utilise health services in 1970, to later in the decade when it took the meaning of potential users of family planning in developing countries, assuming that there was a gap between the level of contraceptive use and fertility preference. With this new definition grew the trend of using the term as a key indicator of potential demand from family planning programmes in large surveys, such as the World Fertility Survey, the Demographic Health Survey, and the Contraceptive Prevalence Survey. More recently, the concept of unmet need has been used by qualitative investigators who investigate the reason for this unmet need in developing countries, and has survived the change in demographic paradigm that has taken place in the nineties. But although the conceptualization of the term may have been altered, its measurement remains unchanged. The paper demonstrated how the term is an over-simplification of the reality at hand. Women cannot be classified into one of the three groups, namely "not in need, with met need, with unmet need for contraception", as situations and circumstances vary. Women's reality vis-à-vis their reproductive goals is much more in a state of constant flux, making it difficult to classify them into one category.

In her paper on 'Regrouping and Reinterpretation: Fertility in Arab Countries', Hoda Rashad discussed how disaggregating the regional term 'Arab' would yield more accurate results about various stages and types of fertility transition that took place within Arab countries. She described how the pooling of Arab countries into the category of a homogenous region tended to exaggerate commonalities, and produce misleading averages which led to misinterpretation of regional fertility events in the past four decades. The mainstream model is that the region, up to the 1970s, had no fertility change because of high fertility desires and cultural specificity. However, Arab countries are different to each other, and should be interpreted as such; they have a mosaic of experiences, and are currently converging towards a lower fertility level. The second section of her presentation dealt with the need to delve deeper into the reasons behind the decline in fertility. It may not be due to the expansion of female and contraceptive choice, as always presumed, but more to do with the limitation of opportunities in some Arab countries. Some of these unfavourable conditions include high levels of infertility and pregnancy loss, and also to the emergence of a growing proportion of women who are never married in many Arab countries.

Anthony Carter, in his role as discussant, presented four possible categories in China's family planing policy: unplanned by government and by parents; unplanned by government, planned by parents; planned by both; planned by governments but not by parents. He wondered whether falling in these different categories would have an emotional effect on the 'unplanned' person. Suggestions were also made to compare the situation of the illegitimate child in nineteenth century Britain, and how those unplanned people were treated. Similarly, the phenomenon of unplanned and unwanted children in contemporary Western societies, and the vilification of teenage mothers and crack babies of African American mothers may also provide worthy comparisons for the concepts of unmet need and unplanned births.

Session 7: understanding Sexuality

The first three papers of the day discussed the topic of 'understanding Sexuality'. Martine Collumbien presented the paper on 'Male Sexual Health Concerns in Orissa' (by Collumbien, Ohidar, Das, Das & Pelto), where she described the emic (insider) perspective of men's own beliefs and terminology for categorizing sexual conditions in Orissa in East India. The study used ethnographic research followed by a population survey. From this analysis emerged several interesting points: (1) That local knowledge and concern about sexual health was primarily focussed on semen loss (dhatu padiba) as opposed to worry about sexual transmission of diseases; (2) The concept of sexual transmission of disease, and Western terminology of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhoea and syphilis, are commonly known and used; (3) However, these imported Western categories for STIs are appropriated to local meanings, and are often used as generic terms to describe a variety of symptoms and conditions, rather than the actual disease itself. Consequently, implications of this study were that social scientists should be aware of differences between local realities and the narrow confines of biomedicine and biomedical labelling. In programmatic terms, these varying understandings could have implications for WHO symptomatic management protocols, leading to the potential for both under and over-treatment, and also for the provision of counselling within sexual health services.

Jennifer Hirsch's paper entitled "un Noviazgo despues de ser casados': Companionate Marriage, Sexual Intimacy and Contraceptives in Modern Mexico' presented marriage as a socially constructed, and historically variable, category. Hirsch's case-material was based on ethnographic interviews about sexuality, gender and reproductive health with multi-generational Mexican women. It was performed in two locations of the transnational Mexican community - in Western Mexico and in Atlanta (Georgia, USA). The demographic fertility decline that has been witnessed in this community over the past thirty years is also paralleled by a change in the meaning of marriage. Hirsch classified this as a change from respeto marriages (marriages of respect) which are characterised by duty and obligation, to confianza marriages, namely marriages of trust, closeness and intimacy. She describes cohort differences in the marital ideal, the gendered practices of decision-making and labour, patterns of socializing and in the meanings of sexual intimacy. Her paper illustrated an attempt to move beyond the notion that categories are socially constructed, and ask why they are constructed in a certain way, exploring the long-term and strategic reasons (such as fertility regulation practices and sexuality understandings) behind the construction.

Finally, Iwu Dwiseyani utomo presented utomo & McDonald's paper on 'New Approaches to Studying Young People's Sexuality and Reproductive Health Behaviour. A Case study from Indonesia'. This presentation focused on the research design, methodologies and classifications used to study young people's sexuality and reproductive health, and the changes that had occurred to these means of categorization over time. The 1994/1995 Jakarta Marriage Values and Sexuality Survey was described in detail, as it was the first comprehensive study in Indonesia to gather data on aspects of young people's sexuality. The quantitative sexual behaviour index score was described, which used factor analysis of socio-demographic variables linked to sexual behaviour. The qualitative aspect of the study was also described in detail, which used in-depth interviews, focus groups and field observations. The importance of combining both methods in the study of young people's sexuality was advocated.

In her role as discussant, Susan Watkins raised the point that the actual categories we use for research (such as urban/rural divide, the different sexual behaviour levels indicated) are themselves political in their choice and omissions. The issue of use of methodologies (such as pile sorting by Collumbien, and in-depth interviews by Hirsch) was also raised, and how both researchers and the researched benefit from learning different methods. In the general discussion, the issue of ensuring anthropological theory is used along with qualitative methodology was reiterated and emphasised by several participants.

Session 8: A Critical Look at Gender

The first presentation to examine the concept of gender was Khadr & Farid's paper on 'Who is head? An anthropo-demographic Perspective on Female Headship', presented by Zeinab Khadr. Most places are witnessing an increasing number of female-headed households, and growing evidence of their special susceptibility to poverty. However, there remains ambiguity in the meaning of the term as defined officially and represented in real-life, and a great deal of heterogeneity to the situations it describes. Because of the different understandings and meanings of the term, it is also difficult to measure who is head. For example, the Arabic translation of asking "who is head?" is literally "Who is the man of the house?" illustrating preconceived notions existent in the society. Khadr & Farid paper reviewed the various categorization criteria used to identify female headship, and related these criteria to the Arab cultural context. using Egypt as a case study, they examined the prevalence of female-headed households and welfare impact on family members. An anthropological review of the context of gender roles and the gendered division of labour with 'Arab families' was then performed, followed by an explanation of the routes that could lead to female headship. For example, what does it mean when a woman goes to live back in her father's house with her children, for example on divorce or widowhood? Or what happens to families that have an elder parent join them? New research areas and methodologies were suggested to deal with this issue.

Elisha Renne discussed her paper about 'Gender Roles and Women's Status: What they mean to Hausa Muslim Women in Northern Nigeria'. In her fieldwork she interviewed and re-interviewed women from this area over a period of 4 years, examining local understandings of the term 'women's status' (matsayi mace). She demonstrated how some aspects of the Hausa's understandings of the term were congruent with several features of the universal demographic definition of women's status such as education, work and knowledge and their impact on Hausa women's lives. These are variables commonly used in standard surveys of women's status, for example, as used as a measure in the DHS. However, in the case of the women Renne researched, concurrence with international measures was countered by a third local variable which is considered as critical to Hausa women's status as education and work, namely that of respectability. This variable may actually counter aspects of the universal term, such as mobility and visibility. Women's local constructions of categories should be examined in order to understand the logic behind their reconstructions of the terms.

In his paper on 'Social Categories in the Study of Masculinity and Men's Roles in Reproductive Health. An Analysis of PRODIR Projects', Axel Mundigo discussed how the dearth of research on men in population studies meant that there was little consensus or knowledge about the most appropriate social categories to be used in the analysis of masculinity and male sexuality. He analysed and coded 240 project proposals received by the PRODIR research competition to study men and masculinity within the larger framework of reproductive health and rights in the Latin American and Caribbean region. The main themes of the projects analysed were the development of an identity of masculinity; the phenomenon of adolescent sexuality and parenthood; sexual orientation; gendered occupations; violence; contraception and the sexual/reproductive health and rights of males; globalization, the labour markets, and gender issues; men, sex and religion. Common categories used were education, ethnicity, social class, religion, exercise of power and violence (e.g. in gangs, but also in institutions such as the military and police), marital status, and health status. He concluded by saying that the opportunity to analyse the project proposals submitted to the competition was a rare opportunity to delve into the collective research imagination of the region on an under-researched and novel topic.

Paula Davis ('Re-contextualizing the Female-Headed Household: Culture and Agency in uganda') returned to the topic of female-headed households. She expanded on Khadr & Farid's point of the heterogeneity and diversity of women's experiences within households, saying that common binary oppositions surrounding views of women (such as victims versus survivors, vulnerable versus resistant) were misleading. The paper provided three recommendations, based on empirical evidence, that argued for the recontextualization of the demographic concept of female-headed households. These were: (1) The historical context of female-headed households must be traced; (2) Women who fit in the category of female-headed households should be placed within the larger political economy of the country, using both official ideologies and women's experiences as case-material; (3) That kinship systems of multiple residencies be considered within the concept of female-headed households. Illustrating these three points with ethnographic and demographic research carried out over two years on women traders in the informal economy in Kampala, uganda, Davis presented a historical analysis on the growth of Kampala as a city and the colonial remnants of equating a single woman in the city with being a prostitute. She also analysed aspects of political organization in the market by these women, particularly dealing with their negotiation between their entrepreneurial activities and infant feeding and care, as well as the wider context in which women were working as informal traders due to the devaluation of the shilling as part of the IMF's structural adjustment programme. Lastly, she presented the importance of kinship in this community, where even if a woman worked in the city and was the primary bread-winner of the family (often the main demographic definition for head of household), she still had very strong ties with relatives and residential units in the home village.

Cynthia Nelson, discussant for this session, reminded us that gender (the category under analysis in this session) is still not a universal term. An Arabic equivalent term was only recently created (janousa), and does not even portray an accurate translation of the concept. General discussion ensued about the pedagogical link between the disciplines of anthropology and demography, and there were different opinions as to whether there were tensions between the disciplines, for example in the way they look at female headed households. Many participants indicated that they thought the discipline used was irrelevant, the relevant point being the pursuit of responsible social science research that is concerned with people's well-being. The issue of heads of households also inspired a great deal of discussion, with suggestions that the actual concept of 'household head' should be problematised. Also, the issue of what it means to be head of household was raised and the symbolic, legal, financial and institutional implications that the label may have were discussed in more detail. The issue of reflexivity was discussed, and how characteristics of authors of the proposals Mundigo had analysed, and - more generally - researcher's characteristics were important to consider within the formulation of research and results.

Session 9: Social categories as Political Metaphors

Soheir Morsy began with a presentation of her work on 'Historicity and the Reframing of Social Categories: The Case of Iraq's Population under Siege'. First, she welcomed the new synthesis between anthropology and demography, but said that studies which linked empirical material with historical and larger global aspects of political economy were still lacking. This integration should not occur simply by means of cultural reductionism on the part of anthropology, but should instead include aspects of analysis from political economy. Within this framework, she analysed the Iraqi population who have been under a decade of sanctions, concentrating on the global asymmetrical power relations, the forces of structural violence inherent in the situation, and the use of social categories as political metaphors. The paper discussed the reframing of Iraqi population categories and the obscuring of history to rationalise the genocide they are currently experiencing. There were significant social categories that did not exist prior to the sanctions: de-skilled Iraqi workers, intellectual genocide, children tainted with uranium-induced illnesses. She described how PUBLIC health information was being glossed over, in order to maintain justification of the embargo imposed on the Iraqi population. Historical analysis was also used to bring into context the full picture of uS foreign policy and intentions towards Iraq, resulting in the maintenance of the sanctions for the past ten years. Categories in population studies, and demography as a whole, are too often sanitised to ignore the realities of the political economy and structural violence propagated by governments.

Tulsi Patel continued the session with her presentation on 'Marital Status and Reproductive Age as Social Categories in Population Studies'. She problematized a variety of categories used in population studies, using supportive fieldwork data from India, and examples from Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Indian censuses. For example, categories of marriage vary in time and place - in India, some girls marry at a very young age, but do not cohabit until later. This data is not collected or reflected in the census, and this distinction between being wedded and being married is not officially represented. The category of age was also examined, with a prominent difference existing between social age (on which status depends in many areas) and biological, chronological age, which is the predominant form of portrayal in the Western context. The collection of misrepresentative data (e.g. in censuses) often results in the formulation of misplaced policies and programmes.

The discussant for this session, Nick Hopkins, linked the two papers by their underlying theme of how demography too often omits the historicity of political economy and social reality. Further discussion continued about the surgical and medical metaphors used in the Gulf War, and how they reflected what was actually being done to real bodies (such as "surgical strikes", "collateral damage").

Session 10: Migration Flows and How we understand Them

This final set of papers aimed to discuss the different aspects of migration, and the categories and concepts commonly used to describe this demographic phenomenon. It started by Yaa Pokua Oppong presenting her work on 'Gender and Life-course Mobility Among the Fulani in Greater Accra, Ghana: The Inadequacies of Voluntary/Forced and Permanent/Temporary as Categories of Migration'. She discussed how in-depth, life-history fieldwork amongst the Fulani in Greater Accra demonstrated the gendered differences in spatial and contextual experiences within the single category of migration. Men and women accessed different learning environments and experiencing different opportunities, and marriage (either the pursuit of a union or the escape from an unhappy union) was a major reason why people moved. She also illustrated how there was much fluidity and multiple layers of movement at different stages of individuals' lives, across places and times. The wider socio-economic, political and economic social context within which opportunities arise and choices can be made have to be considered, instead of simply categorised. Thus, the fixed and opposing demographic categories of permanent and voluntary migration, and of temporary and forced migration, did not reflect local realities.

Santiago Villaveces Izquierdo followed with his presentation ('Internal Diaspora and State Imagination: Colombia's Failure to Envisage a Nation'). By tracing the brutal history of the Colombian civil war and period of violence, he depicts the mass internal migration that has taken place within the country. It is estimated that 1.5 million people out of the 40 million Colombians have been displaced. However, this displaced population, mostly consisting of rural land-workers and peasants who often end up in city slums, is invisible in official statistics. There is a power of double discourse, because although there is a rhetorical acknowledgement of the problem by the state, with its creation of the 'office for internal displacement', it only plays lip service to the problem. Villaveces-Izquierdo argued that the reason behind their invisibility is the implications their visibility would entail - namely, the admission of the existence a civil war by the government, and the implications it has had on the rural economy. Admission would also demand action to help the displaced and prevent further displacement. By examining in fine detail the social and historical situation in Colombia, Villaveces Izquierdo demonstrated how the official invisibility of this unfolding crisis of internal diaspora was created.

John Adams and Alice Kasakoff ('Questioning the usefulness of 'Place' as a Concept in Demography') introduced the concept of 'place' to the agenda, questioning its usefulness in demography since demographic processes are more accurately seen as flows across space and time. Their empirical work was based on longitudinal data from New England, investigating migration patterns of nine patrilineally linked genealogies of New England families over the 250-year period from 1650 to 1880. They introduced the concept of 'flow' in demographic processes, and argued that demographic processes cannot be bounded into political space, because people move over lifetimes and thus their events will take place in different locations. This concept was related to the previous papers from Thailand, China and Ghana, which illustrated that households could not be conceived as bounded.

Stephen Lubkemann closed the session with his presentation on 'Situating Migration in Wartime and post-war Mozambique: A Critique of Analytical Categories in Migration Research with Special Attention to "Forced" and "Return" Migration'. With his analysis of the case of the Mozambican civil war, he demonstrated how the category of forced migration, so often used in kinetic theories of migration, was actually invalid. Instead, there was a great deal of agency employed in the decision to migrate, or not to migrate. Furthermore, migration itself was not always seen as the aim, but rather the means to achieve an aim. Migration is a consequence of the continuation of life-strategies, especially those of marriage and economic survival. Lastly, there were gendered aspects which affected agency and the decision to migrate and how to migrate. These points indicate that there is not as much suspension of everyday considerations and agency when migration ensues in a community as implicit in the category of 'forced migration'. It is imperative to study the wider social and cultural relations between people when explaining the wider issues of migration and non-migration, and to consider non-macro political forces in influencing migration.

Barthelemy Kuate Defo, discussant for this session, associated the papers in their illustration that reality is not fixed, and migration especially is a dynamic process, which would be best considered from this perspective. Tracing people's transitory stages with life history and genealogy data approaches (as used by Kasakoff & Adams) was one way of avoiding problems of fixity. The papers also illustrated the influences of gender on migration behaviour. In the general discussion, participants raised the importance of the non-category, as what was left out on classification was often as important as the existent category. Other participants commented on the fact that the force of agency was sometimes negligent in areas where the options were to die or migrate, but not always in other areas where migration was employed. The issue of multi-national companies and their influence, as well as states and nations, was also raised.

Closing Session

In the final session, Anthony Carter, Chair of the Committee on Anthropological Demography, opened the floor to a general discussion on the issues that had been raised in the presentations and previous discussions. Several of the debates that took place concerned the aims behind this project, and a debate about the political nature of post-modernity, and whether it was applicable to this project. The political nature of the reconstruction process in category reformation was also noted, as was the importance of realizing that categories could sometimes be useful. The importance of looking historically at the emergence and creation of categories was emphasised by several participants, as was the need to reflect on the implications of research on policy, and how to translate the knowledge generated effectively to policy-makers. New ways of illustrating data were suggested, such as showing pictures in addition to tabulated numericals, and categorizing papers in more creative sessions based on the larger themes of modernization and state-formation. The general themes of the social, political and ideological constructionism behind categories were retouched by Simon Szreter (member of the Committee), and he also discussed how new ways are needed to examine the aspects of fixity, and over-simplification of categories used in social science. In the final address, Hania Sholkamy reiterated how it was clear that categories seem to construct the world, yet also to obscure it, classifying and revealing issues simultaneously. She also emphasised the responsibility of anthropologists in representing the world, and how aware one should be during this process of knowledge production listening to local voices and different ideas, and allowing different disciplines to be heard and used.

This successful conference had inspired much discussion and debate around diverse subjects - how history, language, local understandings, social contexts and international political policies had influenced the creation and propagation of social categories in the study of demography. Most importantly, the conference had instilled an awareness of the topic of social categories in the minds of anthropologists and demographers alike, providing a forum for the discussion of their creation, use and influence in a cross-disciplinary manner.

Rolla Khadduri