Emma Crewe, an anthropologist at SOAS University of London, has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant of €2.5 million for the programme ‘A Global Comparative Ethnography of Parliaments, Politicians and People: representation, relationships and ruptures’. Cristina Leston-Bandeira (Leeds) is the Co-Investigator and the researchers are Richard Axelby and Jastinder Kaur (SOAS University of London),  Cristiane Brum (Legislative School of Brazilian Chamber of Deputies), and Mitiku Tesfaye Gabrehiwot (Mekelle University, Ethiopia).

The research programme is exploring the ruptures, crises of representation, and pathways towards more inclusive and relational communication between politicians and people. Emma Crewe and the team of experienced ethnographers will remould how elected representatives are studied both within and outside parliaments. This research will position anthropology as an intellectually influential, and potentially transformative, source of scholarship on everyday politics. In this research, over the coming years we aim to reshape the study of parliament globally.

Relationships between politicians and the people they represent are in turmoil and this is no more evident than on social media. Although the digital revolution has created unprecedented scope for political expression and debate, potentially acting as a connective tissue binding the public to politicians, the sobering reality of echo-chambers and post-truth populist memes has tempered the optimism of many. In embracing social networking, politicians have exposed themselves to daily criticism for perceived breaches in their legislative and representative responsibilities.

The institutions that lie at the heart of our democracies – parliaments – are under constant attack by the media and disdained by the public and they are also under-researched by scholars. At a time when in-depth political scrutiny has a vital role to play in addressing democratic deficits, this research will uncover the relationships between parliaments, politicians and people as expressed and shaped by political communication especially in six democratic states: Brazil, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, the UK and the US.

To see our publications on parliaments and people, go to the GRNPP library and search under our authors. Emma Crewe’s book on the Anthropology of Parliament: entanglements in democratic politics – an overview of global anthropological research on parliaments over the last fifty years, will be published by Routledge in April 2021.

According to reviewers:

“With characteristic wit and imagination, Emma Crewe casts her anthropological eye across the spectrum of parliamentary politics. This book is the product of those enquiries – it is sparklingly fresh, insightful, and as ever with this author, more interested in illumination than condemnation.” Jonathan Spencer, University of Edinburgh, UK.

“This is a pioneering anthropological exploration of parliaments from the UK to East Africa and South Asia, through a rigorous, imaginative and productive crossing of disciplinary boundaries. Emma Crewe’s study of the sociality of parliaments – elections, representation and scrutiny – is complemented by a fascinating account of the culture of parliaments – their rhythms, riffs and rituals – both drawing on a formidable volume of primary research, from the constituency-level to every imaginable aspect of parliamentary practice.” Niraja Gopal Jayal, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.