Deepening democracy in extremely politically fragile countries: networking for historical, cultural and arts research on Parliaments and people

Lead Research Organisation: School of Oriental & African Studies
Department Name: Anthropology and Sociology

Abstract

The challenges for democracy across the globe are chronic, intensifying and urgent. The prospects for greater stability, and meeting the SDGs on inclusive institutions and global partnership, are remote unless ways are found of working towards what Appadurai calls 'deep democracy': local activism by NGOs and movements combined with global networks working in partnership with states. Our networking will link researchers interested in Parliaments and public engagement. The priority will be to support the development of national capacity to study democracy in extremely politically fragile states with a focus on Ethiopia and Myanmar. We will partner with Forum for Social Studies (Addis) and Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation (Yangon) to enable research capacity development by: networking and training; allocation of small, medium and large grants to researchers; mentoring in research methods and dissemination; facilitation of learning between grantees and support in advocacy; stimulating debate; and fostering multi-disciplinary co-operation. National researchers will be given support and opportunities to undertake high quality research on the links between Parliament and the People and collaborate with arts organisations.

This three year project will enable scholarly innovation through: (a) The study of politics in fragile countries has been dominated by development studies and political science. This research will create opportunities for scholarship in arts and humanities disciplines, including anthropology, political and social history, and cultural studies (especially gender and sexuality); (b) While development and politics scholars, and organisations working on governance in the Global South, tend to focus on either civil society/citizens or elite institutions, this research network will address the relationship between them; (c) Although researchers from the UK and India will manage the project, national researchers permanently based in 'extremely politically fragile' countries will do research and influence policy-makers. We have drafted research themes with partners:

1. Culture of representation: How do cultural ideas about effective representation, gender equality and public engagement emerge for elected politicians and citizens within specific cultures and histories? What are citizens' (or non-citizens) and CSOs' attitudes to Parliaments (national and regional) and politicians, what difference does gender and sexuality make, and how are attitudes changing? What conversations take place between them and how are they gendered through language, performance and ritual? How and why does trust increase or decrease between politicians and people? What is the potential for combining representative and participatory democracy, what incentives can be created and what change is realistic?
2. History of exclusion and instability: In what circumstances has representation historically contributed to gender equality, the promotion of the rights of excluded groups, as well as stronger trust, peace and stability? Do women and men imagine the future differently and how is this shaped by their histories? What role does gender (including masculinity) have in political performance, violence and interaction? How do inequalities, rituals, language, self-confidence and claims of authority include or exclude people?
3. Imagining deeper democracy through media and the arts: How can national and regional Parliaments respond to people, improve outreach and enhance the relationships between politicians and the public? How can decentralization and the power dynamics between national and regional legislatures work more effectively? How can arts disciplines or creative industries (art, photography, media, social media, theatre) evoke emotions to transform relationships and influence politics in democracies? How can we measure these changes? What is unique to particular locations and what generalisation can be found across them?

Planned Impact

Our rationale emerges out of a crisis in democracy. The most direct beneficiaries of our research will be scholars in extremely politically fragile states, with a focus on Myanmar and Ethiopia and a lesser focus on neighbouring fragile states. They will be supported to undertake historical, ethnographic, cultural (especially on gender and sexuality) research and to work with arts organisations to investigate through arts methodologies and/or amplify their impact and challenge the dominance of political science. In countries with limits on freedom of speech and the media, scholars and arts organisations can play an especially important role in political scrutiny. It will be the relationship between the public and both their elected representatives but also the institution of Parliament that will ultimately benefit most profoundly from this research. We are addressing their need for deeper democracy, enabling scholars to invite Parliamentarians to reconsider how to engage with people when fulfilling their role as representatives of groups with diverse and conflicting needs, demands and interests. Public engagement that builds trust, peace and stability can only be fathomed and reimagined with a sense of historical and cultural significance.

Institutional development will benefit the project partners in Myanmar and Ethiopia and they will enhance their capacity to enable other organisations and researchers to develop their skills, knowledge, networks and potential for impact. We will promote equal opportunities to ensure that researchers who often face discrimination (on grounds of gender, youth, ethnicity, or distance from the capitals and other urban centres) are encouraged to join the network and given support to do high quality research.

The key audiences for our project will be scholars globally, Parliaments and CSOs in fragile countries, international bodies and research organisations. Sustainable impact hinges on world-class scholars and partners, carefully designed processes to ensure quality, and excellent connections. In what is being called our 'post-truth' world, but might be more accurately described as a crisis of knowledge, international organisations increasingly recognise the value of high quality research by scholars in Asia and Africa. An important part of this project will be to create and consolidate links between research and practice; across social science, humanities and arts disciplines; and within and between the worlds of development, arts and politics. This will increase researchers' potential for access to politicians and political institutions, influence over policy-makers and further support after the end of the project.

The activities of this proposal to AHRC are based on SOAS/Hansard Society tried-and-tested, successful strategies of creating incentives, providing support, recognising national intellectual property rights and maintaining intense and respectful communication with national researchers in shallow democracies (Hansard 2017a). Although this scheme allows scope for developing relationships, we will be able to hit the ground running due to our existing and trusted links with Parliaments, researchers and NGOs in politically fragile states and academics, donors, parliamentary strengthening and governance NGOs/experts working on Parliaments across the world. Impact will be sustainable because we will have not only created opportunities for institutes, NGOs and individual researchers, but supported them in writing proposals, research methods and dissemination as well as through membership of a newly-established Global Research Network in Parliaments and People, thereby ensuring that they will be in a position to secure further support for their research and advocacy in the future. By using online technology for communicating across the network, we will nurture existing, and establish new, enduring connections between researchers and their supporters.

Publications

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Crewe E (2018) Ethnographies of parliament: culture and uncertainty in shallow democracies in Journal of Organizational Ethnography

 
Description A talk by E Crewe about ethnographic research methods in the Study of Parliament as part of a workshop in Sciences Po, Paris 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact French political scientists listened to this talk, and asked questions during a Q&A, reporting interest in learning more about how to use ethnographic methods in the study of political institutions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.sciencespo.fr/centre-etudes-europeennes/en/node/14368
 
Description Article by E Crewe on the State of Nature blog about democracy 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Made contribution to the State of the Nature blog, along with other political theorists, which shared our analysis of the state of democracy but also promoted our Global Research Network on Parliaments and People and its grant-making
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Dedicated website for the network and its grant-making programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A website created to explain our network and its grant-making programme, showcase research by national scholars and provide learning and methodologies that enable multidisciplinary research on the study of parliaments and their relationship with the rest of society
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://parliaments4people.com
 
Description Facebook publicising the grant-making schemes in Myanmar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This Facebook page (in Burmese and English) was posted by Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation, our partner in Yangon, to publicise the grant and received 1.6 K hits, 47 comments and 538 shares
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.facebook.com/emrefmyanmar/photos/a.1613319758915964.1073741828.1612747712306502/20284237...
 
Description Launch of the Global Research Network on Parliaments and People in Westminster 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 80 academics, parliamentary officials, politicians, and NGO staff attended a launch of our network, with Baroness Amos doing the keynote and a panel of Co-Investigator Niraja Gopal Jayal, film-maker Janet Boston, NGO director Greg Power, chaired by CI Ruth Fox, followed by a discussion about making the network and our Deepening Democracy grant-making programme as effective as possible
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTw46Pu6X2w
 
Description Launch workshop in Yangon, Myanmar hosted by Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation and SOAS jointly ran a workshop for potential network members, and applicants to our grant-making programme, in October 2017 in Yangon and received advice about how to design the programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description SOAS ran a series of workshops in Myitkyina, Kachin state, Myanmar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The SOAS team ran a series of consultative meetings and workshops with university scholars, artists, students and the media to explain about the network and our grant-making and to seek advice about how to achieve maximum impact and received guidance that helped to shape the details of the grant-making programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar paper by E Crewe to Politics Department at SOAS University of London on the ethnography of Parliaments in UK, Myanmar and Ethiopia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This seminar presentation about my own research on the ethnography of Parliaments, as well as our new programme researching Parliaments and People in Myanmar and Ethiopia, enabled discussion of potential partnerships across the anthropology and politics development
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/154257155193721/
 
Description Seminar presentation by E Crewe and Z Ahmed on ethnographic research on Parliaments at University of Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Researchers from across the world (US, Canada, Bangladesh, France, Belgium, Germany, etc) gathered to discuss ethnographic research in Parliaments, which led to a proposal to organise a European Consortium on Political Research workshop on the study of political space. Emma Crewe and Sandrine Roginsky have submitted a proposal to run this workshop in Brussels in 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.psa.ac.uk/events/ethnographies-legislatures-research-workshop
 
Description Talk by Emma Crewe to Oxfam GB about women in Parliaments in the UK, Myanmar and Ethiopia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As part of the celebration of the Representation of People Act 2018, 150 Oxfam staff from around the world attended this presentation and debate in person and via video link about women parliamentarians and discussed the challenges they face as politicians. They gave extremely positive feedback about the presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Twitter account for Global Research Network on Parliaments and People 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Our new dedicated twitter account (@grnpp1) promotes the multi-disciplinary study of parliaments and people, informing scholars about events, news and our grant-making opportunities. By March 2018 we sent 106 tweets (with 20,000 tweet impressions), had attracted 111 followers (54% men, 46% women) and 1000 profile visits
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://twitter.com/GRNPP1?lang=en-gb