Politics and International Relations (PIR)
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Inaugural Lecture on 'The Imagined Electorate' by Prof. Ailsa Henderson

Professor Ailsa Henderson will deliver her Inaugural Lecture on the 3rd December 2014.

Henderson is Chair of Political Science at The University of Edinburgh. Her Inaugural Lecture "The Imagined Electorate: Values, Perceived Boundaries and the Regional Rehabilitation of Political Culture" will be on Wednesday 3rd December at 5.15pm at the University of Edinburgh Business School. This lecture is open to the public, but please RSVP to Alistair.Lauder@ed.ac.uk.

Abstract:

The Imagined Electorate: Values, Perceived Boundaries and the Regional Rehabilitation of Political Culture

Political culture is often seen as a concept whose time has come and clearly gone, instinctively useful but difficult to treat with precision. Researchers, who have typically employed it as a tool to compare states, have largely been silent on how it might operate at the sub-state level, notwithstanding the considerable research attempting to map regional political cultures within pluri-national or federal states. And yet addressing political culture below the level of the state forces one to explore many of its unanswered questions: How do we know when political cultures exist?; How do we delineate their boundaries?: How important is evidence of distinctiveness?

This lecture explores political culture as it operates below the level of the state, identifies the existence of two forms of regional political cultures, identifies markers by which we can identify and delineate political cultures and highlights the importance of perception. It provides data demonstrating that citizens believe they possess distinct values from those in neighbouring regions, even in the absence of meaningful variations in attitudes. The result is an imagined electorate for whom legislators then legislate. Far from proving that regional political cultures do not exist, such imagined perceptions of difference form a central component of the subjective dimensions of politics that political culture as a concept was originally designed to capture. Throughout it argues that by exploring political culture below the level of states we can rehabilitate it as a tool for political scientists.