University of Sussex
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The everyday practice and performance of European politics: an ethnography of the European parliament

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posted on 2023-06-08, 17:26 authored by Amy Busby
This inter-disciplinary thesis takes an ethnographic approach to the European Parliament (EP) in order to bring actors, agency, and social context into the study of MEP behaviour. It explores how MEPs practice politics at the everyday level inside the EP. The study approaches politics as an activity performed on a daily basis by individuals within particular social spaces. It takes an individual level and holistic approach to MEP behaviour by exploring their everyday practice of politics inside this institution. The thesis attempts to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of MEP behaviour than is currently available in the literature. The thesis primarily responds to gaps in the European Studies literature which mean we lack understanding of how MEPs practice politics within European structures as active, dynamic agents. The research design includes participant observation, elite interviews, and a survey. An inter-disciplinary theoretical framework is applied which combines tools from Goffman (1959), Wenger et al (2002), and Bourdieu (1990, 1977). It sees MEPs as actors accumulating capital and preparing backstage to give credible and thus persuasive performances to different audiences in this transnational political field and its habitus. This research particularly explores the role of the national party delegations and EP groups in MEPs’ everyday practice of politics and the local meanings generated around these structures. The key narrative woven throughout this thesis concerns their role from participants’ perspective. This thesis finds that these structures play a vital support role and that they can be conceptualised as collegial communities of practice in which members routinely exchange knowledge with trusted colleagues to enable them to cope with the work environment they face and to pursue their chosen interests more successfully.


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  • Politics Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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