The institutionalisation of gendered norms and the substantive representation of women in Westminster and the Scottish parliament

  • Rosa Malley

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Reflecting the turn to institutions amongst feminist scholars, and an understanding of them as gendered (Lovenduski 1998; Krook & Mackay 2011; Franceschet 2011; Kenny 2011), this thesis examines parliamentary culture at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament. It takes a novel approach by drawing on literatures within and beyond political science on ceremony, ritual and political space, and by drawing upon an underused method in political science, namely, participant observation. Typically dismissed in studies of Parliament as 'cultural sideshow' (Crewe 2005: 200), this thesis demonstrates that these seemingly banal aspects of parliament speak to Westminster and Holyrood's 'cultural assumptions' in terms of gender and class, and impact upon the belonging of representatives (Duerst-Lahti 2002: 385). Drawing upon participant observation data, collected through 'shadowing' MPs and MSPs, and over 70 qualitative interviews with MPs/MSPs, it finds that Westminster parliamentary culture is perceived, and is experienced, as less inclusionary of its Members than the Scottish Parliament. Cultural assumptions in Westminster's buildings, ceremonies and rituals, contribute to the process through which some members feel included in Parliament, while others are reminded of their marginalised status, primarily in terms of gender and class, but also race and professional background (Puwar 2004). In contrast the Scottish Parliament looks to be experienced as more inclusive by its Members - MSPs are mostly positive about their Parliament, arguing it represents founding commitments to accessibility and equality. Using political space, ceremony and ritualised behaviour as analytical lenses captures the subtle, and difficult to measure, ways in which institutions are 'lived' by their representatives; thought to be necessary for understanding the context in which the substantive representation of women occurs (Mackay 2008: 132). They therefore speak to, and build upon, feminist institutionalist approaches in offering new avenues for studying the ways in which institutions are gendered.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSarah Childs (Supervisor) & Judith A Squires (Supervisor)

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