The Eurovision Song Contest and the 'New' Europe
THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST AND THE 'NEW' EUROPE
A new research network co-chaired by Dr Milija Gluhovic, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies
The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), first broadcast in 1956, is now one of the most-watched events in Europe, with viewing figures often hitting over 100 million per year. The contest, which for years only featured 22 competing countries, has now doubled in size to over 40 competitors. Now, a Warwick academic is researching the link between the Eurovision Song Contest and political relationships in Europe.
In the UK we often see the ESC as an opportunity to poke fun at our European neighbours, or to convince ourselves that there is a conspiracy theory in place that prevents us from being awarded any points. Many don’t dare to admit that they watch the show, but can admit to getting increasingly riled by the words ‘Nil Points’.
But what do you think of when you think of Eurovision? Do you think of it as a fun spectacle, deriving humour from outlandish performances? Or do you see it as a reflection on the relationships between European countries? Dr Milija Gluhovic, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, is co-organiser of a new research group focusing on the latter, looking at intercultural effects of the Eurovision song contest, and what this may mean for the future of European relations. Ideas of ‘European-ness’ and intercultural relations will be explored, along with how perceptions of certain countries have been impacted by their inclusion in the contest.
The Eurovision Song Contest and the ‘New’ Europe research network, funded by a £35,000 grant from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), aims to advance academic thinking about the ESC, and consider how the contest may have driven a change in the perception of Europe. The international network includes academics from a range of subjects, from theatre and performance studies to gender studies, sociologists to ethnomusicologists.
There is a priority to include academics from non-western backgrounds, as the group want to further understanding in how the contest is perceived by key international stakeholders. With this in mind, some of the research by the network invites the involvement of fans, journalists and the wider media.
Four key potential impacts of the network have been identified:
To aid in meeting these impacts, the core of the project involves three separate workshops, each taking place in a different country and centred on a different topic.
Throughout the project, research will be published on the Eurovision Research Network website, another project exploring the impact of the ESC with close ties to the research network based at Warwick. The project, launched at an event at the University of Warwick in 2009, will culminate in a published volume in Studies in the International Performance Series at Palgrave Macmillan, with chapters being expanded to include presentations from the workshops alongside academic articles. The volume will also feature transcripts of the panel discussions and interviews to ensure that the non-academic contributions to the project are recognised.
On the most recent event as part of the network, the 'Feeling European' workshop, Dr Gluhovic said:
"Feeling European: The Eurovision Song Contest and the European Public Sphere’ was an academic workshop that considered the ways in which the ESC enacts an ideal vision of Europe, and the role that affect plays in viewers’ various affiliations to the ESC; Mari Pajala, Marilena Zaroulia, Phil Jackson and Peter Rehberg offered brief overviews of their papers on ‘Feeling European’, kicking off a lively exchange between ten network members and three students working on Eurovision (from the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands). Topics ranged from the flashmob at the Oslo contest to the possibly utopian affective power of a Eurovision landslide win, to the power structures and economics behind the post-2004 Eurovision brand identity, to the heteronormative dynamics of Stephan Raab’s role in Germany’s Eurovision efforts this year and last."
What do you think? Do you see the results of the Eurovision Song Contest as a reflection on the relationships between European countries? Did you watch the programme last Saturday night? Let us know in the comments box below.
Dr Milija Gluhovic is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick and Director of the Erasmus Mundus MA in International Performance Research, an EU sponsored programme taught collaboratively by the University of Warwick, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Tampere (in collaboration with the University of Helsinki) and the University of Arts in Belgrade (from 2011). Milija joined the School in September of 2006. He holds a BA in English (Hons) from the University of Novi Sad, an MA in English from the University of British Columbia, and a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto (2005).
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