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“Living this written life”: An examination of narrative as a means of conceptualising and strengthening parliamentary engagement in the UK

Prior, Alex Michael (2019) “Living this written life”: An examination of narrative as a means of conceptualising and strengthening parliamentary engagement in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis presents a study of citizens’ engagement with the UK Parliament, at a critical time for this institution and for representative democracy in general. Long-term trends in political participation (in a UK and global context) have contributed to a widely-perceived crisis of representative democracy, characterised by popular dissatisfaction, disinterest, and disengagement. This thesis examines perceptions toward the UK Parliament and parliamentary engagement through institutional and citizen perspectives. In doing so we provide a definition of parliamentary engagement as an ongoing, meaningful dialogue between institution and individual(s). Utilising an innovative theoretical framework, we investigate specific parliamentary engagement initiatives, narratives and discourses, and discuss what these indicate about the nature (or existence) of Parliament’s ‘culture’ of engagement. The way(s) in which Parliament is defined, conceptualised and represented – by citizens, and within Parliament – is a means by which this institution’s practical and symbolic role can be better understood. These definitions, conceptualisations and representations are examined as narratives, a framework that also allows us to examine several engagement initiatives (which make conscious reference to narrative and storytelling) in terms of objectives, intended audience(s), and influence. In addition, Parliament’s wider engagement efforts (and those of outside organisations) will be investigated first-hand, analysing the initial and retrospective perceptions of the citizens who experience them. These aims also inform our discussions with parliamentary staff and officials, helping to construct an ‘institutional perspective’ on engagement. In doing so, we find Parliament to be an enduringly ‘abstract’ institution (according to citizens and staff); a narrative that problematises relatability and identification (as well as broader, deeper engagement). This narrative is reinforced by several factors, including the ad-hoc nature of parliamentary engagement – understood variously across departments, teams and individuals – and an institutional dichotomy of ‘stories’ and ‘information’ when addressing public input, as well as a continued absence of corporate identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Politics & International Studies (POLIS) (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.773988
Depositing User: Mr Alex Michael Prior
Date Deposited: 13 May 2019 11:45
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2020 12:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23675

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