Michael Skey on ‘Ecstatic nationalism and the media: or why nations are not really imagined communities’

Michael Skey on ‘Ecstatic nationalism and the media: or why nations are not really imagined communities’

The first plenary from the joint ASEN-NISE 2022 Conference on Nationalism and Media will be broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook.


Contra to Anderson’s seminal argument, this paper argues that nations are not really imagined but lived, embodied, heard, viewed, represented, materialised and felt communities. For the purposes of this session, and to highlight the crucial role of the media in these processes, I want to focus on the significance of ecstatic nationalism, events designed to commemorate, celebrate or mourn the nation.

Building on Dayan & Katz’s (1992) seminal work on media events, the paper outlines the main features of such ecstatic national events before offering a new framework for making sense of their impact, which draws on insights from social psychology, anthropology and media studies. In the latter case, this includes the role of both legacy media and, increasingly, everyday users on digital platforms in representing both individual nations, but also the international system, as both natural and significant to their own lives.

Alongside, the everyday representation of nations, it is argued that these events are crucial in not only mediating the nation as a more-or-less coherent entity that can be seen and heard and idealised but also in providing opportunities for collective engagement and effervescence. Put simply, mediated representations of such events – which are difficult to escape even if you have no interest in them – offer first-hand evidence that, for substantial numbers, the nation still matters.  Moreover, these processes may echo beyond the event itself into the wider routines of daily life allowing national symbols to become part of the comfortable furniture of everyday existence because their meaning and significance has been re-articulated during such periods.

About Michael

Michael jointed the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University in June 2016. He was previously a lecturer in media and cultural studies at University of East Anglia and has also taught sociology at UEL and University of Leicester. He was awarded his PhD by the Department of Media & Communications at the London School of Economics in October 2008. His doctoral research was funded by the AHRC and a subsequent monograph based on this work was awarded the 2012 BSA/Philip Abrams Memorial Prize.

Michael’s research interests are in the areas of; national belonging, globalisation, sociology of everyday life, media events and rituals, mediatization, sport and discourse theory.