The reimagined party – Q&A with Katharine Dommett
How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?
This book looks beyond the idea that people hate political parties to explore what we want from these organisations – it tries to offer a more optimistic and nuanced account of how parties are viewed (and might want to change).
What books in your field have inspired you the most?
Peter Mair’s Ruling the Void. This book was incredibly powerful in changing how I thought about political parties and ignited by interest in the idea of democratic linkage – an idea I look at extensively within my own book.
Did your research take you to any unexpected places?
As this book is focused on the UK, I didn’t travel to any exotic locations, but the research did lead me to gain many new experiences. Running large focus groups with members of the public was certainly something I never expected to do before this book, but it was incredibly valuable for the research.
Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?
I love writing, but it’s not always easy. I tend to start by scribbling down odd ideas in notebooks. Then, once I’m ready to write, I use a desktop computer. I’m blessed with a little office that has an incredible view out to the Peak District, and I tend to spend my mornings trying to get down my ideas whilst looking at the view.
Why did you choose to publish with MUP?
I’ve always enjoyed MUP books and it’s a great venue for research on political parties, so I’m pleased to have the opportunity to publish my own work with the press.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m doing a lot of work on how political parties are using digital technology in their attempts to reach out to voters. This was a really fascinating strand of the research I conducted for this book, but it was an idea I decided was best explored elsewhere. At the moment I’m writing a number of pieces looking at the use of data driven campaigning and online political advertising, considering the impact these techniques will have on parties’ relationship with voters.
If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice when starting out on this project, what would it be?
This was my first book, and so a lot of the experience was exploring what did and didn’t work. I definitely took some wrong turns along the way, but the process itself and the learning I did along the way was really important to me. I don’t think there is any advice I’d give myself in terms of things to change. Perhaps I’d just say to try and enjoy the process and not to worry too much along the way.
If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?
I love Rasmus Nielsen’s Ground Wars. It’s an ethnographic study of political party campaigning in the US elections. It has to be one of the most beautifully written academics books I’ve ever read, and made some important points about the study of parties and their attempts to connect with citizens.
What other genres do you enjoy reading?
I’m a definite lover of fiction, and enjoy the escapism of a good novel. I’m currently reading The Underground Railroad, and love using literature as a way of learning about other perspectives and experiences. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are a real favourite, and I enjoy books that are set elsewhere around the world.
Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?
I’d have loved the chance to have met Peter Mair, but it would be great to gather scholars of Party Politics in one room, so Pippa Norris, Piero Ignazi, Anika Gauja, Susan Scarrow, Karina Kosiara-Pedersen and many others!
The reimagined party: Democracy, change and the public by Katharine Dommett is available to buy now.
Katharine Dommett is a Senior Lecturer in the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield
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