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We wanna show em who we are:


National Events in England
Michael Skey

Introduction

In his seminal study of Banal Nationalism (1995), Michael Billig posed


an important question; why is it that people in Western nations such
as Britain and the USA dont forget their national identity outside of
special commemorations when national ags are waved en masse. He
suggested that such events are not sufcient to sustain a continuingly
remembered national identity (ibid: 45) and pointed instead to the
daily reproduction of nations through countless routine symbols and
texts. This continues to be a powerful and highly inuential thesis
and Billigs arguments have been utilised in a range of studies of
both national (cf Reicher and Hopkins, 2001; Edensor, 2002) and other
social identities (Cram, 2001; Aksoy and Robins, 2002; Szerszynski and
Urry, 2002; Beck, 2004; Gorringe, 2006).
However, in largely dismissing national events as conventional car-
nivals of surplus emotion (1995: 45), Billig overlooks the important,
and somewhat under-theorised, link between banal and, what I have
previously labelled as, ecstatic forms of nationalism (Skey, 2006). In
this chapter, I want to focus on this relationship as a means of examin-
ing the signicance of, and response to, the upsurge in national, mass
ag waving events in England over the past decade.
It is my contention that we can use the wider debates surrounding
these events as a form of strategic lens (Sassen, 2000: 143) with which
to study the articulation of national identities at a time of signicant
social and political change within Britain as a whole.1
First, however, I want to outline the conceptual framework that
underpins these investigations.

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D. McCrone et al. (eds.), National Days
Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2009
42 National Days

From media events to ecstatic nationalism

Perhaps the most inuential approach to the study of mass, ritual


events was outlined by mile Durkheim, who argued that they recre-
ated and reied social bonds in the process producing solidarity and a
shared sense of community (1915: 207). Subsequent studies, have
adopted this Durkheimian perspective, by emphasising their integra-
tive function (cf Shils and Young, 1956; Verba, 1965), culminating in
Dayan and Katzs classic study of Media Events (1992), which were por-
trayed as shared experiences uniting viewers with one another and
with their societies (ibid: 13). My own approach to the study of
ecstatic nationalism, events designed to celebrate or commemorate a
national community with reference to symbols and social knowledge
that informs an understanding of everyday life in a world of nations
(Skey, 2006: 151), has explicitly drawn on Dayan and Katzs work. In
particular, I have used their denition of media events (1992: 49) to
outline a broad range of features associated with these displays: pre-
planned or anticipated, designed to generate forms of social solidarity
linked to a national community or movement, interrupt the routines
of daily life, utilise and reify (routine) symbols of the nation, involve
both a live central cast and a watching, media audience.
Crucially, however, this approach specically rejects the tenets of
functionalism, or the idea that such events are, by denition, integra-
tive (see Couldry, 2003 for a useful critique). Instead, it focuses on
what Don Handelman has labelled as the logic of design, which
underpins the production and management of such events, as well as
the practices they engender (1998: 1516). In other words, it is neces-
sary to ask the fundamental question(s) of whether, why and for whom
these events produce feelings of solidarity and, just as importantly,
who ignores or resists them (Lukes, 1975: 297). For, as recent empirical
studies of national events indicate, levels of participation, dissent and
indifference can vary enormously across different sections of a given
national community, while their design and reception often shifts in
relation to wider social and political transformations (Handelman,
1998; Spillman, 1997; Adamcyzk, 2002; Kuhlke, 2004).
The latter issue will be addressed in the nal section of this chapter
but rst I want to draw an important distinction between participation
in such national events per se, and why it matters, and the meaning
that these events hold for different individuals. This would include
both those who actually take part, either directly or through related
activities e.g. informal gatherings, watching television etc., and others
National Events in England 43

who are either critical or indifferent to them. In order to unpack the


issue of participation, I will briey sketch the changes that have been
taking place in England over the past decade or more concerning
public displays of nationality before examining the response of indi-
viduals interviewed as part of a wider empirical study into national
identity among the English.

Ecstatic England

I think it is fair to argue that visible, mass displays of national identity


in England have grown in both number and intensity in the past two
decades, with support for sporting events, and in particular, football,
producing the most compelling evidence of this new nationalist
fervour.
While the popularity of football in England has been building for
over two decades it was the Euro 96 championships held in England
and the 1998 world cup that provided the blueprint for subsequent
sporting endeavours involving English national teams, namely media
saturation, targeted marketing campaigns and increasingly ebullient
public displays of allegiance.
The summer of 2002 perhaps represented the high-point of this
process so far, when a combination of the Queens Golden Jubilee and
another England football world cup campaign brought millions onto
the streets as a plethora of public events and informal parties across the
country were used to mark the occasion.
This appetite for communal displays of national pride has also
extended to what might be considered minority sports in England,
rugby and cricket. In 2003, the victorious England rugby world cup
side was met by a million strong crowd of people in London on a cold,
wet November day. Two years later the England cricket teams thrilling
Ashes series victory against Australia provoked similar scenes of eupho-
ria and another open-topped bus ride through the streets of a throng-
ing capital.
The visibility of these periods was marked across the country by the
unprecedented display of English national ags, which were hung from
cars, houses, ofces and other public buildings. For instance in 2004,
the Daily Mirror newspaper gleefully recorded that some three million
national ags had been sold in the run up to Englands campaign in
the European football championships (Kelly, 2004: 1). For those living
in countries where the national ag is routinely displayed, this might
not mean much. Its signicance, however, comes from the fact that
44 National Days

15 years ago ying a St. Georges Cross would have been more or less
unthinkable for most people in England (Perryman, 2005: 203).
This overview of developments in England suggests that something
signicant may be happening. I will return to this idea in due course as
it again points to a crucial aspect of the relationship between banal and
ecstatic forms of nationalism. First, however, a complementary, micro-
perspective can be provided by exploring the ways in which people
participated in such events, by examining data from a series of group
interviews conducted during the period 20057.

Performing the nation

As part of a doctoral research project, I carried out over 20 group inter-


views with English people living across England over a two-year period
asking a broad range of question concerning the state of the country.
Given the recent growth in public events celebrating the English
nation and the relative paucity of data concerning attitudes towards
them, I was also keen to ask my interviewees their views about these
increasingly visible displays.
First it should be noted that no-one denied that they were becoming
more frequent and most agreed that they were a fairly recent phenom-
enon. In terms of their own participation, many of those interviewed
talked about how much they enjoyed watching sporting events involv-
ing the national team as part of a large communal group as it helped
generated a more intense atmosphere. There has been a gradual shift
towards these types of shared viewing practices across the country,
either in traditional venues such as pubs or, increasingly, in public
spaces town centres or public parks which are commonly set up to
cater for many thousands of spectators.
In addition, the idea that one could show commitment to the nation
materially and symbolically was also discussed. For instance, different
groups talked about painting bodies with the Cross of St. George and/or
waving ags and wearing clothes with national symbols on them.
During the game itself people co-ordinated their activities through
bodily enaction by, for example, singing songs, cheering the team and
celebrating or lamenting the nal result.
In this way, the emotional impact of these events becomes height-
ened, whether inspiring feelings of pleasure, grief or even disgust,
because they involve so many others whose own display acts as a form
of mirror or catalyst, intensifying the overall experience of the event.
The following extract is indicative:
National Events in England 45

Tom: Yeah, or if I know theres a match coming up or even when


there isnt a match on, like in the world cup and that because its
coming up towards it, its build up and build up. You just get into it
anyway, you start singing the songs, even when the ags are up, you
just get into the mood of it (Carlisle Group)

Much of the history of crowd psychology, from Le Bon (1896)


onwards, has pointed to the degree to which mass publics are seen to
act as one, as individual mores become (or at least appear to be) sub-
merged under the weight of numbers moving or acting in unison.
Often the sheer scale of such events is impressive so that those who
attend or witness it are not simply sharing in the immediate experi-
ence but will carry away with them memories that can be re-lived in
combination with others and subsequent generations (Connerton,
1989).2 As a result, such annual or periodic events provide an impor-
tant form of temporal regularity (Zerubavel, 1981: xii), generating
shared reference points and anchoring disparate individuals to the
wider (imagined) community. It is in this sense, that we can explore an
important feature of the dialectical relationship between the ecstatic
and the banal.

The ecstatic and the banal

The emphasis on temporal and spatial co-ordination, through embod-


ied action, means that national events provide focused moments
where collective identities are displayed and, in the process, mater-
ialised. This idea is put forward by one of the interviewees in relation
to support for the English football team:

Lee: The thing is, with that situation [the world cup] youve actu-
ally got something tangible to grab on to as being an identity of
being English cos youve got an England football team, youve got
the tactics that they use, youve got the, yknow, the bravado that
they show on the pitch and so forth So, like, yeah, its, you can
grab onto something and say that it is England (Swindon Group)

It is because support for a national team can be unambiguously


demonstrated materially and bodily that where signicant numbers do
participate the nation becomes temporarily realised through these
myriad, more or less co-ordinated activities. In this way, such mass
events serve to naturalise a common-sense perception that we live in,
46 National Days

and belong to, nations (Thompson, 2001: 19). As Barbro Blehr, writing
about Norwegian Constitution Day celebrations, observes, when
people engage, once a year, in the [days] activities they conrm
that the Norwegian community exists, and that they are themselves
part of it (1999: 37).
It is in relation to this important idea that the relationship between
the banal and the ecstatic needs to be explicated. For while Billig
rightly argues that sentiments of patriotic emotion (1995: 146) only
make sense in relation to the daily, banal agging of the nation (in a
world of nations), I also want to suggest that ecstatic forms of national-
ism are crucial because they illuminate the rather diffuse solidarities
that are presumed to underpin daily (national) life. These events tem-
porarily structure disparate lives, provide a sense of communal release
and realise the nation, albeit for a limited period, as a concrete com-
munity that can be seen and heard and idealised. In other words, they
provide us with powerful evidence that the banal symbols of the
nation that are daily taken-for-granted are still resonant, thereby allow-
ing them to recede into the background once the business of ordinary
life has again resumed (ibid: 156).
It is in this sense that I think we need to make a careful distinction
between assigning signicance to an event because of the numbers
involved and attributing underlying motivations to those that parti-
cipated, as onlookers, media audiences or through related, informal
activities.

Participation versus motivation

In the rst instance, the question of numbers is absolutely fundamen-


tal. By engaging in commonly accepted social practices (even if it only
involves going to the pub, wearing the national team shirt, cheering in
unison and so on) disparate individuals orientate their lives around the
event in parallel to substantial groups of [other] people (Anderson,
1991: 188). Whether these activities represent a deeply felt allegiance
to the nation, as opposed to the chance to get drunk and jump about
with friends, is not necessarily the point. For, alongside the display of
ags, the media coverage, the ofce conversations etc, they provide
telling evidence that the nation is a knowable community (Cardiff
and Scannell, 1987: 169). As Handelman comments, public events are
occasions that meet the phenomenal criteria of sight and sound of
boundedness, of degrees of internal coherence, and of a relative unity
of organisation3 (1998: 147).
National Events in England 47

This means that while understanding the manifold reasons why dif-
ferent people took part is important, it should not detract from the fact
that many, many people did participate, for whatever reason, and that
this is signicant in and of itself. As Bauman writes, sharing physical
space with other actors engaged in a similar activity adds importance
to the action, stamps it with the approval of numbers and so
justies it without the need to argue (2001: 97). For sporting and other
national celebrations, each of the participants contributed to the reali-
sation of the nation as a (temporarily) coherent and concrete entity,
through their collective endeavours, even if their reasons for taking
part might have been completely opposed.
However, engaging with the logic of practice (Handelman, 1998:
15), what motivates people to take part and how they evaluate these
activities, is also crucial to understanding the signicance of such
events for different groups. In the next section, I want to explore some
of the ways in which these types of national celebrations were per-
ceived by members of the groups I interviewed, notably the ways in
which they articulated their own and others participation or lack
thereof. These discussions provide fascinating insights into the way in
which discourses of national identity are being unsettled in England at
the current time and may be used as a strategic lens (Sassen, 2000:
143) with which to examine how different individuals are making
sense of and responding to wider social and political transformations.

Excessive nationalism

The following comment was made in response to a question asking


whether any members of the group had ever taken part in an event
celebrating the nation. Here the response, which was echoed across a
number of the group interviews, bluntly pointed to the inappropriate-
ness of, what the speakers considered to be, displays of excessive
nationalism (Condor and Abell, 2006: 453).

Interviewer: Ive got .. um one last question for you which is


about celebrating Britain or England. Have you ever taken part in
events that celebrate this country?
Melanie: I have to say that after, what we have been saying about
appreciating Britain and stuff and I do and everything, but Im
really not into that whole, really patriotic
Lauren: Yeah.
Melanie: lets go wave a ag.
48 National Days

Shelly: Oh yeah, I appreciate it but I wouldnt


Lauren: but Im not going to stand up, saying
Melanie: not going to preach about [it] (Cirencester Group)

The idea that it is possible to identify and embody an acceptable


level of national pride is particularly noticeable here as the speakers
discuss national self-identication as a matter of being, of rational
self-knowledge as opposed to sentiment (Condor and Abell, 2006: 30).
In other words, being able to appreciate your country involves a sense
of control or calm appraisal that needs to be actively distinguished
from the physicality of either waving a ag, standing up or preaching
about it.
Furthermore, although Britain is specically mentioned, I think it is
possible to open up these discussions with reference to Tom Nairns
(1977) argument concerning the dominant status of the English.
He suggests that as the most powerful group in Britain, the English are
(or at least were) more secure in their own identity and, as a result,
privileged normative ideas about tolerance and restraint as a means
of downplaying their dominant relations with proximal and distant
colonial Others (Kumar, 2000). In the process, this has enabled the
English/British4 to dene passion, emotion and a loss of self-control as
the preserve of the Other, as the following extract demonstrates;

Richard: I think generally were not very nationalistic. When you


compare us to other places, I think if you go to Canada or the States
Im not sure whether we are or whether its naturally a lower key
approach to nationalism in this country.
Lisa: Its too embarrassing.
Ian: You keep your head down (Taunton Group)

In the above extract, Richards suggestion that our reticence may be


innate can be linked to range of popular inter-textual representations,
the classic being the stiff upper lip (see Fox, 2004: 135 for a recent
example). Yet in re-asserting their own agnosticism towards national-
ism (Kumar, 2000: 577), these individuals are again putting forward a
denition of who they are by contrasting their own lack of patriotic
fervour with Others more crude displays of nationalism. This is what
Condor and Abell label as a strategic attempt to differentiate a
rationally-national self from the passionately-driven other who
[is] imagined to be susceptible to the inuence of ugly forces (2006:
301).
National Events in England 49

For instance, a number of the interviewees contrasted the passion of


American patriotism with the natural reluctance of English people to
display their nationality. The latter position is reected in an article
written by The Times journalist, Martin Samuel, which is of particular
relevance to this discussion. Samuel was writing in response to the
then Chancellor Gordon Browns suggestion that Britain should have a
national holiday to celebrate Britishness. In drawing distinctions
between rational and emotional forms of national pride, Samuel con-
trasts British decorum (using mainly English signiers!) with the
frenzy of ag-ying, sticker afxing and apple pie baking that marks
out American patriotism.
However, there is a second aspect of the argument made by Samuel
that was also raised by my interviewees and that concerns a link
between English/British understatement and a settled sense of identity:

Lisa: Its too embarrassing.


Ian: You keep your head down.
Richard: Not so much, more, more a sort of, there is no need to be,
youre perfectly content with your sense of identity within your
country, you dont need to push your country (emphasis added,
Taunton Group)

Brown wants us to work hard at being British, which is not British at


all. Leave us alone and well show you British What truly makes a
country great is the fabric of its daily life: the humour, the toler-
ance, the kindness displayed by British people who feel no need
to wave a Union Jack (emphasis added, The Times, 24/03/06)

What is particularly striking about these extracts is that they both


refer, in identical terms, to the idea that it is a secure sense of identity
and, therefore, contentment with both who and what they are that
allows the English/British to resist the excesses of ag-waving.
Therefore, what I nd of particular interest at the current time is the
apparent tension between those who continue to reject overt ag
waving as inappropriate and the increasing willingness of signicant
numbers to take part in these very public displays.
Here again, we can point to the previously dominant and stable
nature of English identity within Britain and then widen our scope of
enquiry to take in some of the current debates about, say, immigration,
European integration and economic globalisation that are beginning
to unsettle previous certainties (language, ways of being, symbolic
50 National Days

repertoires) for some groups. Theoretically, the tension between these


two competing positions can be mapped by drawing on Bourdieus dis-
tinction between the eld of doxa, of that which is taken-for-granted
[or] beyond question (2006: 166) and the eld of opinion [where]
practical questioning of a particular way of living is brought
about (ibid: 168). Bourdieu noted that when an established eld
of doxa was subject to sustained scrutiny it generally precipitated a
crisis as new frameworks of meaning and signication were debated,
accommodated or, in this case, rejected.
Using this framework it is possible to conceptualise the increasing
visibility of nationalist displays in England, alongside sustained out-
bursts about migration, political correctness and citizenship rights, as
part of a wider attempt to re-assert a previously established orthodoxy,
at the behest of those dominant groups who rely on and benet most
from it.
However, in positing such a link, I am distinctly aware that some of
the earlier critiques directed at functional approaches to the study
of ecstatic events might also be applied to this analysis and therefore,
in the next section, I want to turn to my own respondents views to
see if it can be used to support this thesis.

We wanna show em who we are

One of the subjects I was most interested in hearing discussed by my


interviewees was the reason why they thought that there had been
an increase in ag ying and other more visible displays of national
pride in England. Interestingly, the reasons given for this upsurge
could be divided into two fairly distinct strands that were employed
almost uniformly across the groups. The rst attributed the rise to
the power of the media and other commercial interests, an inter-
esting argument but beyond the scope of this chapter. The second
lends weight to the idea that such displays are a response to an
increasing sense of insecurity and unease being felt among many
English people at the current time. The following extracts are
indicative.

Charlie: See years ago they didnt, years ago they didnt y it
because they didnt fucking have to. We knew who we were
(Middlesborough Group)
Garry: .. maybe were just trying to show were an .. um .. an
indication, that there is still an English identity
National Events in England 51

Katie: Yeah, I think people are starting to get a bit paranoid, that
English is
Tina: fading out.
Dave: .. so like bringing out proof to show youre still here
Tina: .. its like its fading, isnt it, really. Theyve gotta try and hold
on
Garry: Its like, its like youre trying to prove something trying
to prove something but 40 years ago you wouldnt have to prove
anything. This is England (Eneld Group)
Simon: I think its just trying to show a bit of national pride isnt it?
To say that we are British and we English or whatever, we are here
(Devon Group)
Janet: It was wasnt in your face But its now in your face and you
think Hang on a sec, this is my country, so therefore I celebrate
what my country is (South London Group)

I would like to raise a number of important points in relation to


these discussions. The rst concerns the identities of the two groups
that are seen to feature and the varying degrees of agency that each is
seen to possess. Interestingly, English, British and white were all used
to label the in-group who were identied in opposition a range of un-
named, though seemingly powerful, Others. These include both those
who have arrived here in the past 40 years and the non-English
national groups within Britain.
The comment from Simon is particularly relevant given the earlier
discussion concerning the dominant status of the English within
Britain . Having used the terms British and English in relation to we,
the phrase or whatever illustrates the extent to which he nds this
distinction an irrelevance and the point is driven home with the
qualier, we are here. This phrase, alongside other possessive state-
ments such as this is my country and this is England also reference
the fact that the speakers locate themselves and people like them as
the de facto, and rightful, symbolic owners of the nation.
Ghassan Hage has argued that this mode of national belonging
(1998: 46) is predicated on the belief that ones own group is entitled
to comment on the management of national space and culture so that
it remains familiar and secure and is a response to the (perceived)
threat posed by an increasingly undomesticated Other.5
In this instance, Other groups are seen to have crossed a threshold
to the extent that they are now in your face thereby allowing our
response to be classed as retaliation.
52 National Days

These examples again suggest that forms of national doxa, taken for
granted by particular, dominant groups, are perceived to be unravel-
ling, so that the tacit knowledge and assumptions about who belongs
and what matters can no longer be relied upon.
Furthermore, this is generating a tangible sense of anxiety or insecur-
ity, with the term paranoid, used by the Eneld Group, particularly
striking. As a result, there is a concomitant desire to seek a more secure
footing, which, in this case, may be achieved through overt expres-
sions of nationality in an attempt to re-establish the visibility, and
hence symbolic power, of the group. As Kong and Yeoh write:

given that identities are conjunctural and socially constructed it


follows that at particular times and under particular conditions, the
sense of national identity is particularly threatened. In other words,
the need to foster and assert the sense of identity may be stronger at
some times than others (1997: 214).

This is an argument that is echoed in the following exchange


between members of the Liverpool Group:

Frank: It [Englands world cup campaign] actually provided an


outlet for people to say were in danger of losing something that
we value. And its being eroded over time.
Interviewer: And whats been lost, do you think?
Diana: I think, I think whats been lost is a sense of pride, a sense of
where you belong in the world in terms of history, context (emphasis
added)

The palpable feelings of loss and disorientation articulated in


this extract indicates the degree to which the nation has under-
pinned a relatively stable sense of identity and place for these indi-
viduals Moreover, this ontological framework continues to matter
because it offers still points in a turning world (Hall, 1997: 175).
The phrase eroded over time echoes the idea that long-term changes
and (perceived) threats to their own sense of identity are begin-
ning to generate a response among some sections of the English
population. Finally, the statement also reinforces the idea that
such ecstatic events represent a space where individuals can
manage wider feelings of uncertainty or loss, by actively embody-
ing and, thereby, re-presenting the imagined community of the
nation.
National Events in England 53

Having pointed to the fact that these ecstatic forms of nationalism


seem to play an important role in concretising the image of the nation
and may be particularly signicant during times of uncertainty,
I would like to offer a brief disclaimer. Without a doubt, this is far too
complex an issue to be reduced to an apparently clear-cut relationship
between, say, migration levels and mass ag-waving. Therefore, while
my empirical data point towards such a link in contemporary
England, we cannot assume that all such instances of ecstatic national-
ism function in such a way. Therefore, at the risk of labouring the
point, any investigation into what these events might mean for dis-
parate individuals and groups must be investigated empirically in
terms of both design and practice.

Conclusions

In this chapter, I have tried to emphasis the importance of theorising


banal and ecstatic forms of nationalism in a dialectical relationship as a
means of more effectively understanding how the imagined commu-
nity of the nation (in a world of nations) is realised and concretised.
Whilst acknowledging the contribution of those who emphasise the
daily, routine (re)production of national identity, I have also pointed
to the ways in which mass, public events are fundamentally important
in allowing disparate individuals to both perform and materialise
their nation, through the co-ordination of embodied actions across
time and space. It is through these collective rituals that the everyday
understandings about the nation are made self-evident, and in the
process reconrmed. As Rafael Narvaez writes, social meaning and
social cohesion are attained by way of ongoing ritual acts which get
their strongest impulse during effervescent ritual[s] (2006: 57).
In the second part of the chapter, I suggested that ecstatic forms of
nationalism might be employed as a useful strategic lens with which to
study the link between wider socio-political transformations and their
impact on established discourses of (national) identity. In the case of
England, there seems to be some evidence that the undermining of a
previously taken-for-granted and largely settled sense of identity and
place among the dominant English in Britain may be generating a
concomitant desire to re-assert their position as the symbolic owners
of the national space through active embodiment and co-ordinated
displays.
In other words, as previous certainties (language, ways of being,
symbolic repertoires) become opened up to scrutiny as a result of
54 National Days

increasing global mobility and insecurity, growing numbers may be, in


contrast with the past, where nationalism was largely portrayed as the
preserve of an uncivilised Other, be feeling an increasing need to
anchor themselves ontologically through collective social practices.

Notes
1 The British state was legislated into existence in 1707 through Acts of Union
between England (and Wales) and Scotland. Overseas imperial expansion
and subsequently war and the creation of the welfare state bolstered British
institutions but there was no sustained attempt to integrate political, cul-
tural and economic structures [as] in the classical nation-state (McCrone,
1997: 585). As the signicance of the British state has waned in the post-war
era, there has been a gradual move towards devolution in the Celtic fringe
leading to the granting of political rights to a Scottish parliament and Welsh
assembly. Concomitantly, this has forced the dominant group within
Britain, the English, to re-evaluate their place and identity within a changing
socio-political landscape (cf Kumar, 2000).
2 Where such events do come to dominant wider institutional and popular
narratives even those who would rather ignore the proceedings will often be
forced to take up a position, whether critical or otherwise. In some cases, the
disinterested or dissenters will be provided with their own special events
(republican parties during the Jubilee or cinemas showing particular lms
during the world cup) or narratives (press stories about football refugees),
contributing to a sense of a compulsory mediated centre (Couldry, 2003:
66).
3 In terms of organisation, it should be noted that where ofcial events are
organised by commercial sponsors or government agencies their success or
otherwise is actually dened in terms of numbers. A similar observation is
made by Lyn Spillman in her study of national events in the US and
Australia, where she notes, for bicentennial organisers, sheer participation,
not any particular representation of the nation, was the goal (1997: 100).
4 In both everyday talk and elite discourse the term British is often used to
stand in for English, so that the two become conated in the popular English
imagination (It is difcult to imagine individuals from the other British
nations making the same mistake).
5 There is no space here to develop these ideas in any depth but see Skey
(2008) for a more detailed analysis.

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