Data Performativity in Sexual and Reproductive Health: A critical reflection on the constructions and uses of surveys

Joe Strong, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Quantitative global health data are the cornerstone for the monitoring and measuring of progress. However, the data commodity chain frequently results in the need for harmonised, streamlined tools to measure data, which decontextualise and depoliticise survey data. For sexual and reproductive healthcare, this creates a system that prioritises the needs to measure policy agendas and global development goals over nuanced data that reflects lived experiences. This presentation utilises the concept of data performativity – the connections between theory and realities that data aim to represent – to examine quantitative sexual and reproductive health data. It explores data performativity within sexual and reproductive healthcare data by critically interrogating the research commodity chain with a triangulated methodological approach. The first method is an examination of policy goals, measurements, and the datasets operationalised in this process; the second is an analysis of major datasets identified in the first method to examine data performativity within these scales; the third is a critical reflection of a novel survey design used in a project based in Ghana. This final survey was used in a project to understand men’s relationships to SRHR, designed using feminist and queer theoretical frameworks, with data collection finished in January 2021.

Keywords: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Demographic and social surveys, Theory

See paper.

  Presented in Session 39. Fertility and Sexual and Reproductive Health: New Methods