Skirting the issue: finding queer and geopolitical belonging at the Eurovision Song Contest

This article examines how the ideological boundaries of East and West are built, maintained and challenged through the performance of sexual and other politics in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). It argues that the contest is a useful prism through which to examine and understand contemporary European debates about sexual politics, and the role that this plays in defining the borders of modern Europe and its conditions of belonging. The contest itself offers an important site for belonging to the European community both to states on the eastern margins and to queer communities throughout Europe. It examines examples of performances that have challenged sexual politics, such as the Finnish entry from 2013, as well as state responses to the queer dimensions of the contest, such as those from Russia and Azerbaijan. It concludes that different states may challenge the ESC rules on political gestures depending on their own status within the European community as well as the extent to which that gesture challenges or reaffirms “European” ideology.

Jessica Carniel

Jessica Carniel

Jessica Carniel is a Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, where she teaches on the history of Western ideas, ethics and human rights. Her broad research interests include Australian and global immigration, cosmopolitan cultures, sporting communities and identities, cultural studies and gender studies. She has published widely on gender and ethnic identities in literature and sports cultures in multicultural Australia.

1. How do you define “Europe”? Make a list of countries you consider to be part of Europe, outlining what characteristics make them “European”.
2. Is there such a thing as “European values”? Can we use a slippery concept like “values” to help define the borders of political communities?
3. One journalist makes a distinction between the Eurovision Song Contest and the idea that it is a “European Song Contest”. What is the relationship between Europe and Eurovision? How and why has this changed over time?
4. Given the nature of the Eurovision Song Contest, is it possible to separate politics from popular culture? Should they be separate?
5. Find and examine a Eurovision performance from the past 10-15 years. How are ideas of gender, nation, politics and belonging represented in the performance?

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Southeastern Europe