In this chapter I consider the role of multicultural institutional fantasies, such as the one I argue can be seen at play in Michael Sheen’s speech, in enacting the state. To make such an analysis I build on ideas about the interconnection between socio-cultural relations of power and emotion (Ahmed, 2004; Fortier, 2008; Hage, 1998; Rose, 1996) which can be applied to our understanding of institutions as constituted through ‘relational politics’ (Hunter, 2012, 2015). Such an analysis can complement and enrich understandings of institutions as produced through political and economic interests by drawing attention to the ways in which emotion works through culture as the connective tissue of institutional life. That is to say
that emotion is productive, the means by which everyday technical, bureaucratic and professional practices are lived through broader culturally enacted discourses to constitute institutional spaces. From this point of view institutions are not things in themselves, but come into being as ‘affective formations’, sustained through and sustaining of intersecting material and symbolic relations of classed, racialised and gendered power. Institutions have a fantasy quality, bringing together multiple symbolic and material practices in a particular institutional form. This approach to institutions as affective formations produced through fantasy is not one which denies institutional materialities, but one which facilitates understanding of how the material and symbolic dimensions of life connect through emotion to create particular institutional formations. Thinking about institutions in this way, as material, cultural and affective, provides a way of analysing the strength, but also the fragile, complex, uneven and internally contradictory character, of public, professional and political support for institutions like the English NHS.2 It provides an approach which can explain the existence of cultural continuity amidst ceaseless hyperactive and turbulent material organisational change.