Visualizing Population Changes: Pictorial Statistics and Global Demography
Neuere/Neueste Geschichte
Creating a World Population: The Global Transfer of Techniques of Population Control


Visualizing Population Changes: Pictorial Statistics and Global Demography

Referent/in: Sybilla Nikolow, Bielefeld


In the twentieth century, demographic knowledge was widely communicated across cultural and language barriers with the help of visual statistics. In my contribution, I use Otto Neurath’s pictorial statistics as a case study to demonstrate how visual images were used to facilitate international discourses about social change. Ideas about “overpopulation” and the need to regulate reproductive behavior figured prominently in those discourses, and I analyze how the visual practices employed by Neurath strengthened or underminded contemporary perceptions about demographic developments. Neurath’s search for a global visual language will be contrasted with other, more conventional efforts to visualize population change in the 1930s. I will discuss the different concepts of the social body that were displayed using particular styles of representation. By focusing on visual sources, I contribute to the historical discussion on globality, with an emphasis on the production, circulation and public adoption of concepts of world population. The potential globality of visual concepts like pictorial statistics as well as their limits will be discussed.