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The role of politicians’ personal performance in fostering political representation

Alvarez Fuentes, Mario Antonio (2018) The role of politicians’ personal performance in fostering political representation. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This research project addresses an elusive topic for political communication research: the role of the personal in politics. Specifically, how personal attributes affect the chances of an individual becoming the representative of a group of people. Current literature does not provide clear-cut concepts for ‘the personal’, which in turn has prevented the emergence of methodological designs capable of grasping its most relevant features. Conceptually, the personal has been defined primarily by its assumed risk for democracy. Terms such as ‘personalisation of politics’, ‘tabloidisation’ or ‘strategic framing’ have denounced the presence of ‘the personal’ in the communication between politicians and citizens. Methodologically, quantitative longitudinal examination of news articles have indeed provided evidence of the occurrence of such trends, but their alleged impact on democracy remains inconclusive. This approach has shorn ‘the personal’ of any political meaning, reducing its role to strategic fabrications that politician put forwards with no intention other than deception. This research project wants to take an alternative way. ‘The personal’ is defined as a performance, a concept used in social psychology and cultural sociology to describe the enactment of one’s actions in front of others. An interpretive approach and an ethnographic methodology is proposed to grasp the meaning of that performance and, ultimately, its role in fostering political representation. This research design observed the production of the TV programme, Polònia, which has been broadcast weekly in Catalonia since 2006 and consists of satirical political impersonations. Interviews, participant observation and document analysis were conducted in 2015 and 2016. The data analysis revealed that personal attributes displayed by politicians are actually meaningful if approached in a different manner. Rather that observing or examining, participants try to experience the meanings evoked by the politician’s performance. Politicians’ materiality – expressed in bodily gestures, voice, gaze, clothing, and so on – trigger memories and references which are the make-up of the character acted on stage. Finally, triangulation of data demonstrates that social stereotypes are consistently evoked by politicians. Therefore personal attributes connect politicians with social stereotypes and thus they become the representative of a group of people. The implications of this conclusion for political communication research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Media and Communication (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.762532
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2019 12:16
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22510

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