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Large Grant to Research Parliaments and Political Performance


The University of Warwick, in collaboration with Birkbeck College, Sheffield and Bristol Universities, has been awarded £875,964 by the Leverhulme Trust for a four-year programme to study the importance of ceremony and ritual in the UK Parliament and others.

Shirin Rai, Professor of Politics and International Studies said: “Ceremony and ritual play a role in how people working in political institutions are socialized and made part of the culture.

“This can have both positive and negative effects. For instance, some people find parliamentary ceremonies empowering; ritualized forms of speech in debating chambers can enable participation while ensuring heated exchanges don’t get out of hand. However, ritual can also mark people as outsiders, alienating them in terms of gender, race or class.”

This programme of work will be led by Prof. Shirin Rai of the University of Warwick, in collaboration with Prof. Joni Lovenduski (Birkbeck College), Dr. Georgina Waylen (Sheffield University) and Dr. Sarah Childs (Bristol University).

Prof. Rai added: “By comparing the Parliaments of South Africa, India and the UK we will be able to consider how distinct political cultures have evolved from the Westminster model.

“This will be the first such comparative study. We must understand the role played by ceremony and ritual so that we better understand how different groups can have a sense of belonging as well as can feel excluded through these. We hope to gain insights that will help to invigorate democratic practices and participation.

As part of the research programme three doctoral studentships and three post-doctoral fellowships will be offered at the Universities of Warwick, Sheffield, Bristol and Birkbeck. Two Visiting Fellows will also participate. A dedicated programme website will disseminate information about the progress and outcomes of the research.

The programme will run for four years. However, interim results will be reported in yearly workshops.


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