SSC Virtual Seminar Series, joint with Department of History at Queen's: Sarah E. Igo, Department of History, Vanderbilt University, USA

Sarah E. Igo
Sarah E. Igo

Nine Digits: Citizenship, Governance and Data in the Age of the SSN

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

12:30 – 2:00 pm

*We will send the seminar link and password to registered participants.

Seminar recording is available here.


This talk probes the career of the U.S. Social Security number for what it can tell us about the shifting ways citizens have encountered the federal state but also their own “private” data across the last century. Beginning in 1936, the SSN was affixed to more and more American lives in order to administer social benefits, spurring new uses of punch cards and filing systems as well as novel dilemmas about the housing and dissemination of personal information. The twists and turns of this history reveal the unanticipated outcomes of creating a new identification system in the 1930s—as well as the fraught relationship among technical infrastructures, data privacy, and modern citizenship.

About the speaker:

Sarah E. Igo (B.A., Harvard; Ph.D., Princeton) is the Andrew Jackson Professor of History and Dean of Strategic Initiatives for the School of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University, with affiliate appointments in Law, Political Science, Sociology, and Communication of Science and Technology. Igo teaches and writes about modern American intellectual, cultural, legal, and political history, with research interests in the production of knowledge, the politics of data, the human sciences, and the history of privacy and the public sphere.

Professor Igo’s most recent book, The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2018) won the Merle Curti Award for intellectual history from the Organization of American Historians, the Jacques Barzun Prize for Cultural History from the American Philosophical Society, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Society and was named one of the “Notable Non-Fiction Books of 2018” by The Washington Post. She is also the author of The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public (Harvard University Press, 2007), which was an Editor’s Choice selection of the New York Times and one of Slate’s Best Books of 2007 as well as the winner of the President’s Award of the Social Science History Association and the Cheiron Book Prize and a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award of the American Sociological Association. 

Everyone welcome!

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