The Living Democracy exhibition and film festival in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, was seen by over 10,000 visitors between January and March 2024.

What gives life to democracy? This exhibition explored the work of political representation in all its messy entanglements, including when the threads that hold it together start to break apart.
Since 2019 a global team of scholars and film-makers have been researching the relationship between politicians and citizens in Brazil, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, the UK, and the US. This exhibition is a collection of their work – film, photographs, installations, timelines and even a Fijian Talanowa. Ethnographers present their insights into the relationship between politicians and those that they work with or claim to represent. Responding to the endlessly changing demands of
different configurations of people and pressures, you will see how politicians constantly shift from the ordinary to the extraordinary as they engage and clash with varied groups. Most of us are shapeshifters some of the time, but politicians do it to an amplified degree and with more serious consequences. Through the relationships we create with them, democracy comes alive. Or flounders.

As part of the exhibition a film series includes “Megut: the Wheels of Democracy”.
In a unique reversal of roles, African anthropologist film-makers study Europeans. Mitiku Gabrehiwot and Tesfahun Haddis have exchanged Tigray, Ethiopia, for South Yorkshire. They embarked on an ethnographic expedition to explore the culture of local democracy in the city of Sheffield and made an intriguing film about it, full of thought-provoking suprises.

Ethnographies of Parliament, Politicians and People is an European Research Council funded project (£2m grant) based at SOAS University of London and led by Professor Emma Crewe.