Emma has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant of €2.5 million for the project A Global Comparative Ethnography of Parliaments, Politicians and People: representation, relationships and ruptures. With Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira (Leeds) as Co-Investigator and four other ethnographers – Dr Richard Axelby and Dr Jastinder Kaur (SOAS University of London), Professor Cristiane Brum (Legislative School of Brazilian Chamber of Deputies), and Mitiku Tesfaye Gabrehiwot (Mekelle University, Ethiopia) – she will explore the ruptures, crises of representation, and pathways towards more inclusive and relational communication between politicians and people. This research will position anthropology as an intellectually influential, and potentially transformative, source of scholarship on everyday politics in Parliaments and constituencies.
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 – in six democratic states (Brazil, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, the UK and the US).