Emmanuel Didier

Emmanuel Didier, PhD

Professional affiliations: 


  • Member of the Conseil Scientifique de l’Institut des sciences humaines et sociales du CNRS.
  • Project coordinator, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, projet “Benchmarking”, 2 years, 162 000€, 2010-2012
  • Project member, Maison Européenne des Sciences de l’Homme de la Société, 1 year, 5000€, 2008-2009. 
  • Project coordinator, CNRS/USA 2008, sélectionné par la DREI du cnrs. 21 000 €, 2007-2009

Research interest: 

  • Sociology of statistics and quantification
  • Sociology of Medicine and Genomics
  • Political sociology
  • Sociology of the police
  • Sociology of States and Government

Brief biography: 

Emmanuel Didier is a founding member and permanent researcher at Epidopo (Epigenetics, Data, Politics), a joint research unit funded by the French CNRS and UCLA and located in the latter. He is an associate researcher with the Centre Maurice Halbwachs (CNRS, Ecole normale supérieure and EHESS) and a member of the Center for Study of Invention and Social Process at Goldsmiths, the University of London. He teaches “Socio-history of statistics” at the ENSAE (Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Administration Economique) and at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, and Bio-Data, The Social and Political Consequences of Big Data in Biology and Medicine” at UCLA.

Originally trained as a statistician, Emmanuel Didier produces statistical results, especially in the field of victimization surveys. But he specializes in the study of statistics as a tool of government. His first book (acclaimed by Le Monde) bore on the relationship between the invention of random sampling in the US and the political innovations of the New Deal which are State interventionism and State planning. Focusing on the history of policies concerning agriculture on the one hand and labor on the other, he proposed a theory of social consistency and social solidity of politics and knowledge.

His second book written with Isabelle Bruno is entitled Benchmarking (financially supported by French ANR). They studied the latest transformations of management by numbers in the French public administration. They focus principally on government of the police of public security, and also on government of research and of health. The book shows how management by number, imported in government from private companies, changed the meaning and practice of the French State.

His third book, entitled “Statactivisme”, is an edited volume (with Isabelle Bruno and Julien Prévieux), dedicated to gather and analyze ways in which, since the 1970s, ordinary people resist to or pervert quantitative management tools, or use statistics to enhance their power against institutions. This collective anthology brings together contributions from sociologists, journalists, artists, and union and community activists. Featuring are, for example, Luc Boltanski, alain Desrosières, Theodore M. Porter, Howard Becker and the artist Hans Haacke, Its position is based on judo: it prolongs the movement of the adversary in order to turn his strength against him and send it right back at him. It attempts to turn statistics, the instruments of power of a large number of governments, into critical weapons. Or at least, it explores the possibility. Fighting with figures is taking part in statactivism.

After this experiment with activism, he edited the last book of the late Alain Desrosières, entitled Prouver et gouverner, une analyse politique des statistiques publiques (“To prove and to govern, a political analysis of public statistics”), who deceased before he had a chance to finish it.

He is now working on a project on big data in the domain of health and especially in genomics. After the Human Genome Project, he argues that genomics is now experiencing a deep transformation initiated by the availability of some huge storage and calculation facilities. His goal is to understand how this new kind of quantification will, at the same time, change the policies governing healthcare, alter the way individuals conceive themselves as subjected to disease, and redefine pluridisciplinarity among specialists.

Teaching presentations: 

  • Bio Data (UCLA), Socio-history of statistics (ENSAE)

April 9th 2015 SHS 3G seminar; Fondation maison des sciences de l'homme - Paris


Quantification and public administration in the neo-liberal state, Lecture series Wipcad, 2013

WIPCAD 10 from Wipcad Potsdam Vimeo.


"Police et citoyens, la grande méfiance", débat par forumdesimages


Bruce G. Carruthers, Emmanuel Didier, Jahnavi Phalkey, Theodore M. Porter – Governance and Numbers: Credit, Crime and Growth from Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin on Vimeo.


Selected Publications:
  • BRUNO Isabelle, PRÉVIEUX Julien, 2014, Statactivisme, Comment lutter avec des nombres, Editeur, Paris, La Découverte, coll. Zones.
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2014, Edition et introduction de Alain Desrosières, Prouver et gouverner. Une analyse politique des statistiques publiques, Paris, La Découverte.
  • BRUNO Isabelle, DIDIER Emmanuel, VITALE Tommaso, 2014, "Statactivism: forms of action between disclosure and affirmation", in Partecipazione e conflitto. The Open Journal of Sociopolitical Studies, vol. 7, n. 2, pp. 198-220. DOI: 10.1285/i20356609v7i2p198. e-ISSN: 2035-6609.
  • BRUNO Isabelle, DIDIER Emmanuel, 2013, Benchmarking. L’Etat sous pression statistique, Paris, La Découverte, coll. Zones.
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2012, “Public Safety and Wall Street”, Limn, n°2 [ link ]
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2011, “Counting on Relief: Industrializing the Statistical Interviewer during the New Deal”, Science in Context, 24(2), pp. 281-310.
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2010, “Gabriel Tarde and Statistical Mouvement”, in Candea M. (Ed.) The Social After Gabriel Tarde, Routledge, London, 163-176 [ link ]
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2010, “The victim’s decision to report offences to the police in France. Stating losses or expressing attitudes”, Philippe Robert, Renée Zauberman, Lisa Miceli, Sophie Névanen, International Review of Victimology, Vol. 17, pp. 179–206.
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2009, En quoi consiste l’Amérique ? Les statistiques, le New Deal et la Démocratie, Paris, La Découverte [ link ]
  • DIDIER Emmanuel, 2007, “Do Statistics ‘Perform’ the Economy ?” in Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics, MacKenzie, D. et al. (Eds.), Princeton University Press, pp. 276-310.