This award provides partial support for an international workshop, to be held at Johns Hopkins University, on the changing roles of, and ideas about, numbers around the world. Evidence is mounting that older distinctions between quantification and culture are being breached by social practices in varied locations in the globalized world. The burgeoning popular and professional recourse to numbers is not necessarily a step towards standard mathematical abstraction. It may work more like a vernacular language, with rapidly changing semantics, dialects and translations. This anthropology-based, social science workshop will bring together for the first time an interdisciplinary array of scholars studying number through empirical research and critical reflection. Participants will come from Brazil, France, England and the United States. Their research spans China, Thailand, Pakistan. West and Southern Africa, the Caribbean, Yemen and the West (to include current and historical number practices in formal and informal settings).
The three-day workshop format aims for a broad yet rigorous investigation of number phenomena by working on three distinct themes: equivalence, accounting, and calculation. Each panelist has been recruited to present on one of these themes, while rapporteurs' summaries and the final session address convergences, gaps, and intellectual challenges. To optimise interchange in advance of the workshop, a orienting paper will be precirculated and a website set up to allow interchange, posting of relevant sources, submission of papers in advance and ongoing discussion. The outcome will be a collective edited publication that analyzes the concepts and practices surrounding numbers in national and international life..