Research highlights

The research undertaken by members of the Centre for Democratic Engagement examines different forms of democratic engagement, participation and activism at local, national and global levels. Researchers at the Centre study and comment on current democratic challenges such as growing political polarisation, incivility, populism and disinformation, but we are also interested in potential opportunities and solutions, including new forms of citizen engagement, democratic reform of political parties, and innovative tools for online citizen engagement. In so doing, we seek to analyse and interpret the complex and contradictory developments that currently shape the terrain of democratic politics, in what for many is a turbulent and confusing political moment.

Funded Research Projects

Cristina Leston-Bandeira’s research has focused on how parliaments engage with the public. Her research has been funded by the ESRC and the Leverhulme trust, most recently on a pilot by the House of Commons to engage the public with the drafting of legislation and the extent to which this enhanced public engagement. She is currently working on the new e-petitions system of the House of Commons, having spent six months with the Petitions team thanks to an Impact Acceleration Account grant. You can find out more about this research from her ResearchGate page.

Jonathan Dean is Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme Research Grant ‘Exploring Left-wing Populism in an Age of Anti-Politics’ (2015-2018), working with Bice Maiguashca (University of Exeter). The project focuses on three key issues: first, it examines new forms of grassroots left politics such as the recent rise of the Labour left under Corbyn and the “Green Surge” within the Green Party. Second, it examines the role that gender, race and class play in shaping these forms of politics. Third, it examines the extent to which the category of “populism” can help us make sense of left-wing politics in contemporary Britain.

Jocelyn Evans is UK Principal Investigator on the Open Research Area (ORA) project, ‘Subnational Context and Radical Right Support in Europe’ (SCoRE), a three-year project to build a comparative multi-level explanation of Radical Right voting in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. The project focuses on more detailed geospatial units to analyse how local socio-economic conditions interact with individual attitudes to drive voting behaviour. He is also Co-Investigator on the ESRC-funded 2017 Northern Ireland General Election Study.

Alex Prior is carrying out a PhD in Political Science, funded by the University of Leeds. His research focuses on political engagement as a dialogue between citizens and political institutions, specifically the UK Parliament. Popular understandings of political engagement – including quantifiers, associations and definitions, and assumptions of its current strength – are of key interest. His research investigates the usefulness of narrative and storytelling in conceptualising politics, as well as encouraging participation. Alex has recently carried out fieldwork while being based at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) at the House of Commons on a work placement.

Charles Dannreuther is involved in a number of funded research projects. He is Principal Investigator on an ISRF Small Research Grant on “Financialisation Social Investment and Europe’s Social Question”. This project has explored a number of themes, such as wellbeing and mental health interventions, which was addressed at the International conference Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS) in Wageningen (28 -30 June 2017). He is also pursuing a project entitled “BREXIT – a teachable moment?”, funded by the University of Leeds’ University Student Education Fellowships scheme. The project will explore how the pursuit of international excellence in research and teaching by UK universities creates a context for UG and PG study that has created a new “pedagogy of the oppressed”. Through a critical engagement with existing practice the aim of the project is to promote practitioner engagement at the module level for pedagogic reasons but also to enable a refocusing of the University to serve its local as well as its international communities.

Chantal Sullivan-Thomsett is carrying out an interdisciplinary project between German (School of Languages, Societies and Cultures) and POLIS with supervisors from both subject areas and funded by the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities AHRC competition. Her research concentrates on the contemporary German Green party’s engagement, and use of, protest. It poses the question of what happens to party-sanctioned protest as a form of participation once a former protest party has professionalised. Her research aims to answer this question by exploring the Greens from within, using an ethnographic approach to explore the experiences of party activists and grassroots support of party protest action, and evaluate the extent to which party protest can be assessed as having been ‘gentrified’.