Introduction: Gender and Geopolitics in the Eurovision Song Contest

From the vantage point of the early 1990s, when the end of the Cold War not only inspired the discourses of many Eurovision performances but created opportunities for the map of Eurovision participation itself to significantly expand in a short space of time, neither the scale of the contemporary Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) nor the extent to which a field of “Eurovision research” has developed in cultural studies and its related disciplines would have been recognisable. In 1993, when former Warsaw Pact states began to participate in Eurovision for the first time and Yugoslav successor states started to compete in their own right, the contest remained a one-night-per-year theatrical presentation staged in venues that accommodated, at most, a couple of thousand spectators and with points awarded by expert juries from each participating country. Between 1998 and 2004, Eurovision’s organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and the national broadcasters responsible for hosting each edition of the contest expanded it into an ever grander spectacle: hosted in arenas before live audiences of 10,000 or more, with (from 2004) a semi-final system enabling every eligible country and broadcaster to participate each year, and with (between 1998 and 2008) points awarded almost entirely on the basis of telephone voting by audiences in each participating state. In research on Eurovision as it stands today, it would almost go without saying that Eurovision and the performances it contains have reflected, communicated and been drawn into narratives of national and European identity which were and are – by their very nature as a nexus between imaginaries of culture and territory – geopolitical.

Catherine Baker

Catherine Baker

Catherine Baker is Lecturer in 20th Century History at the University of Hull and specialises in the study of nationalism, conflict, narrative, and postsocialism. She is the author of Sounds of the Borderland: Popular Music, War and Nationalism in Croatia since 1991 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010) and The Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s (London: Palgrave Macmillan, in press), and the co-author (with Michael Kelly) of Interpreting the Peace: Peace Operations, Conflict and Language in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

1. What is a ‘nexus between imaginaries of culture and territory’? Where and how could it be recognised?
2. How closely did the enlargement of Eurovision follow the timeline of European political and financial integration?
3. To what extent do conclusions from the 1990s and 2000s about the meanings of Eurovision in southeastern Europe continue to be relevant in the mid-2010s?
4. What would a critical geopolitics or a feminist geopolitics of Eurovision look like? Are these different objectives?
5. Given that Eurovision organisers prohibit ‘political gestures’, is the Eurovision Song Contest nevertheless political? Why (not)?

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Southeastern Europe