Westminster Parliament

Westminster Parliament

The House of Commons

Emma has been studying the House of Commons since 2011 (first on a Leverhulme Research Fellowship). Since has interviewed MPs in all political parties, MPs’ staff, and officials to find out what it is like to be a Member of Parliament. She explored how MPs navigate the varied range of demands and pressures they face in the parliamentary chamber, committee rooms, in their political parties, within constituencies and in the media. How do they learn the rules, prioritise their time and establish their reputations? What are the differences between political parties, for newcomers and old hands, and according to MPs’ backgrounds and identities? She watched debates, visited constituencies, read tweets and followed parliamentary scrutiny of the family justice aspects of the Children and Families Bill.

Speaker Hayman (Lords), Speaker
Bercow (Commons) and
and President Obama

Her book House of Commons, an anthropology of MPs at work was published in April 2015. What others have said about it:

‘Every tribe needs its anthropologist and those currently sitting on the green benches in the Houses of Parliament have found theirs in Emma Crewe. She has a keen ear, a flair for divining character and for capturing episodes, and she marries the three in this fascinating study’ (Professor Lord Hennessy)

‘MPs are scrutinised and criticised more than ever, so it is refreshing to find research which has studied the actual work MPs do, not based on preconceptions and prejudice but on the reality of our daily lives’ (Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee)

‘A preceptive, balanced and thorough research project into modern day politics. Being followed around by an anthropologist was, at first, daunting – but better than being followed by a tabloid reporter! And the work is a more sympathetic and realistic analysis of our much-maligned profession.’ Rt Hon Sir George Young Bt CH, MP fo North West Hampshire

The House of Lords

On the basis of her earlier research of the upper chamber (1998-2002), Emma wrote a portrait of the House of Lords – the first anthropological study of the UK parliament. The peculiar composition of the Lords – appointed peers, Bishops and hereditary lords – and the relationships between its members are changeable and unexpected. Peers’ status in the House depends partly on how impressively they speak during debate. Women thrive in its courteous culture. Some significant hierarchies, however go almost unnoticed. Each of the parties has its own sub-cultures, but in all three obedience to the party ‘whips’ is maintained more by social ties than by political self-interest. At the same time, ritualised debates allow resolution of disagreement between opposing but fluid moral communities, reflecting conflicts in wider society. Finally, the symbols and rituals, through which relationships, power and ideas are mediated, are analysed from the perspective of anthropology.

What others have said about Lords of Parliament: manners, rituals and politics (2005):

‘A beautifully observed study of  political institutions and politic behaviour, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to understands how the Lords really works.’ (Prof. Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitution Unit, UCL, London)

‘Lords of Parliament immediately takes a place alongside the best anthropological studies of the crucial role played by ritual in modern politics. Crewe’s graceful writing and wit come through on each page, while she gives us an inside view of an institution that cannot but provoke our curiosity. It is a book that is going to be read with great pleasure, offering not only much new insight, but copious chuckles.’ (Prof. David I. Kertzer, Brown University, Rhode Island)