Relationships between politicians and the people they represent are in turmoil. 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. Their cultures 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 – in six democracies. We will explore the causes of rupture, crises of representation, and pathways towards more inclusive and relational communication between politicians and people. Leading a team of experienced ethnographers, Professor Emma Crewe (PI) will remould how representatives within parliaments are studied. This research will position anthropology as an intellectually influential, and potentially transformative, source of scholarship on everyday politics. She is eminently placed to direct this research as the world’s leading ethnographer of parliaments, having published ground-breaking ethnographies of the UK Parliament and mentored scholars researching parliaments elsewhere. Having played a pivotal role in the development of the anthropology of development in the 1980s, Crewe is similarly poised to reshape the study of parliament globally by guiding ethnographers to conduct research across Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania.
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