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Researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies

The ACPRS weekly seminar was held on Wednesday August 20 2014, with author and ACRPS researcher Abbad Yahya presenting his discussion of "Statistics and the Manufacture of Sectarianism: a Critical Approach". The lecture dealt with the relationship between statistics and sectarianism by focusing on the Syrian and Lebanese cases. Yahya takes a critical approach to understanding the relationship between statistics, specifically a census, and creating categories in the context of undemocratic regimes, and manufacturing sectarianism- or exacerbating it. In this context, the lecture focused on the perceptions that afford the census a central position in the manufacture of sectarianism, which became deep-rooted following the colonial experience. He discussed these public perceptions and criticized them by dissecting the justifications for collecting statistics, and attaching such importance to this process. 
Yahya also sought to approach the role played by statistics and their impact on sectarianism; whether by sanctifying, denying, or reproducing it. The researcher concluded that the process of collecting statistics, however neutral and objective it may be, remains a valid basis for creating sectarian, ethnic, or linguistic dominance. Perhaps this is the essence of why numbers and data are problematic, their apparent neutrality conceals a tremendous ability to use and manipulate them.The lecture was followed by a rich debate between Yahya and the audience, which brought up the sensitivity of statistics in the Arab world. The significant lack of procedural and analytical effort in collecting correct statistics was noted, mainly because contribution to this understudied subject still poses more questions than answers.