Emma Crewe is an anthropologist based at SOAS University of London working on politics, governance and identity in organisations, especially parliaments.
She began working with Practical Action as a social scientist in 1987 and spent five years advising NGOs and governments in East Africa and South Asia on household energy projects. This experience was half the basis of her PhD (University of Edinburgh) and a book, Whose Development? An Ethnography of Aid, co-authored with Elizabeth Harrison who brought the other half of the material from the Food and Agricultural Organisation.
She taught anthropology and development studies at Sussex University (courses included: social institutions, culture and madness, environment and ecology, gender and development, and applied anthropology). From 1995-98 she advised grant-makers, developing the policies and rules of the first Big Lottery Fund international programme.
She followed this with a four year research project in the UK House of Lords. She observed the reform that excluded most of the hereditary peers, interviewed over 150 peers and officials and wrote about social relationships, culture, and reform in Lords of Parliament: Culture, Rituals and Manners. With Penny Boreham she made a two part series on the culture of the Lords for the BBC Radio 4.
In a return to the world of development, Emma was a researcher and then Director of the Centre for Research in Innovation and Science Policy in Hyderabad, India from 2004-5. Between 2005-2011 she was Director of ChildHope, a small international NGO that supports national NGOs in African, Asian and South America to stop violence against girls and boys. She was Chair of Health Poverty Action 2014-2019.
From 2008 she taught on the MA in Anthropology of Development at SOAS and wrote a text book on the subject with Richard Axelby. She was a Leverhulme Research Fellow back in the Westminster Parliament (2011-13), exploring identity, culture and representation in the House of Commons. Between 2014-2017 she researched gender equality within the international NGO Oxfam and co-ordinated a coalition of researchers, with Ruth Fox (Hansard Society) looking into what happens when the parliaments of Bangladesh and Ethiopia engage with the public and aim to reduce poverty.
She continues to create opportunities for scholars in Asia and Africa to research the relationships between parliaments, politicians and civil society. Plus she is working on comparative ethnographies with a small team to find out about the ruptures in relationships between politicians and people in Brazil, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, the UK and the US.