Emma Crewe was the first anthropologist to research the Westminster Parliament in 1998 and has undertaken various ethnographic studies of both the House of Lords and Commons since then. She will talk about how an ethnographic approach to studying political institutions is uniquely well-placed to expose its silent traditions, but only if combined with reflexivity, a sense of history and a focus on plurality. More recently she has been developing novel approaches to collaborative ethnography that challenge assumptions about who controls research. In three contrasting examples – giving grants to scholars and artists in Myanmar and Ethiopia to study their parliaments, researching the expenses scandal in the UK with a parliamentary official and studying select committees with a psychotherapist – she will explore how plurality of authorship can lead to thicker description and theory.
About the speaker
Professor Emma Crewe
Professor of Social Anthropology, SOAS University of London
I have been teaching and working on international aid, development and politics since the late 1980s. I began as a social scientist in the energy department of an international non-governmental organisation while undertaking doctoral research on the politics of aid (published in ‘Whose Development? 1998, co-authored with E A Harrison).
As a lecturer at the University of Sussex (1993-96) I taught on anthropology and development studies courses. Subsequently I was an adviser to grant-makers and freelance consultant working with donor governments and NGOs. More recently, I was Executive Director of ChildHope, a UK-based INGO working on social justice with national NGOs and networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America (2005-2011). Since 2014 I have been teaching on a highly innovative course at the University of Hertfordshire Business School, supervising postgraduates to research their own organisations and drawing on sociology/anthropology, complexity sciences, and American pragmatism.
My ethnographies of the House of Lords (ESRC funded, 1998-2002) and the British House of Commons (on a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, 2011-2013) were the first on the UK Parliament.
As a researcher at SOAS, I co-ordinated a research coalition investigating Parliament and public engagement in Bangladesh and Ethiopia with Hansard Society and national researchers (ESRC-DFID funded, 2014-2017).
In 2017 I established the Global Research Network for Parliaments and People at SOAS with a grant-making programme to support national scholars to study the relationship between Parliaments and People in Myanmar and Ethiopia (supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council/Global Challenges Research Fund).
Maria-Eugenia Giraudo & Nicole Beardsworth