[I]n spite of many centuries of theoretical effort, we cannot
say what representation is.
—Heinz Eulau, “Changing Views of Representation”
For this study, I took my cue from Heinz Eulau. Instead of asking, “What is representation?” I asked, “How can we discover what representation is?” I focused on its actual practice. To that end, I interviewed and observed twelve state representatives over the course of two legislative sessions. 1. I thus discovered how state legislators define their approaches to representation by doing it. This study attempts to show what representation is in practice, not what it is in theory. Generalizations are offered, but they are grounded in discussions of actual representatives going about their tasks. In confronting my chosen question, I have not taken Professor Eulau's insight so seriously as to be frightened away from the first question. After all, representation is fundamental to democracy. But, as Eulau points out, theoretical effort alone is not sufficient to answer the question “What is representation?”
A caveat: this project is not based on the assumption that there is a single answer to that question. Hanna Pitkin has thoroughly discredited such a notion. According to her, representation is a term that encompasses a range of approaches and answers, each of which is____________________