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Eurovision Song Contest and the 'New' Europe

Eurovision and the ‘New’ Europe is an international, interdisciplinary research network launched in 2009 and recently awarded UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Network funding for a series of three workshops in the first half of 2011.

The project aims to advance critical thinking about the contemporary Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), focusing on the ways in which the Contest has reflected, and perhaps driven, changing perceptions and realities of Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The socio-political and economic realities of Europe as well as larger conceptual frameworks about what ‘Europe’ means are shifting rapidly in our times. Europe is becoming the site of multi-directional flows of power, finance, ideas, and bodies. The ESC, with its own unique imaginative and aesthetic modality, has been since its founding in 1956 a symbolic contact zone between European cultures, an arena for European identification in which both national solidarity and participation in a European identity are confirmed. It is also a site where cultural struggles over the meanings, frontiers and limits of Europe, as well as similarities and differences existing within Europe, are enacted.

Since the 1990s the ESC has itself been changing rapidly in response to the continent’s shifting political, social, and economic realities. The number of competing countries has nearly doubled (from 22 participants in 1990 to 42 in 2009), and new entrant countries have come to dominate the Contest: from 2000-2008 every winner was an Eastern or Southern European nation. This has prompted anxiety amongst some Western European media and contest insiders, who have portrayed this as invasion or wrongful domination. These anxieties echoed, and were fuelled by, larger tensions within Europe about Westward migration, and perceived differing levels of economic and cultural development between Western and non-Western European nations. The ESC has thus become a stage on which the changing realities of Europe are being played out.

Participants in this project come from a wide variety of disciplinary approaches: theatre and performance studies, ethnomusicology and popular music studies, media studies, queer and gender studies, sociology, and European studies. The inclusion of scholars from non-Western European backgrounds is a high priority. We intend for our research to participate in and contribute to the ways in which key stakeholders understand the Contest and its meanings, and are therefore inviting the participation, in some of our events, of broadcasters, participants, journalists, and fans.

The project involves three theme-based workshops: ‘ European Margins and Multiple Modernities’< /font> (at Royal Holloway, University of London, February 2011) considers the persistence of the binary of barbarian East/civilised West in current European public life, and the ways in which the ESC may challenge or uphold this binary. ‘Queering Europe’ (at the University of Warwick’s teaching facility in Venice, Italy, in April 2011) extends recent research on the queer and camp appeal of Eurovision towards wider readings of the ways in which gender and sexuality are performed and problematised on the Eurovision stage. The final workshop, ‘Feeling European: The Eurovision Song Contest and the European Public Sphere’ will take place at the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf in May 2011, and will have several parts. An academic workshop will consider 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; several network members will give public plenary lectures; and a panel made up of Contest stakeholders will consider the network’s preliminary findings, in a discussion open to the public.

The network was launched with an initial workshop at the University of Warwick in 2009, and consists of a core group of 20 researchers who are engaged in an ongoing and focused dialogue around the research themes. Several events in the Royal Holloway and Düsseldorf /ESC workshops will be open to the broader research and ESC communities, and indeed the public. Any researchers or ESC stakeholders interested in the project are encouraged to contact the co-organisers for more information.

The project will result in a co-edited volume to be published in the Studies in International Performance Series at Palgrave Macmillan; chapters will be expanded versions of selected workshop presentations. We will also include material reflecting the contributions of non-academic participants, such as transcripts of interviews and panel discussions. Another key dissemination point of information about the project and its results is the website of the Eurovision Research Network (, another Eurovision research organisation with which this project has close links.

This project is being managed and administered at the University of Warwick.



Karen Fricker ( is Lecturer in Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research interests include contemporary theatre/performance and globalisation; she has an ongoing career as a journalistic theatre critic alongside her academic work. Originally from California, she held a postdoctoral research fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin from 2005-2007 studying Eurovision fandom through the lens of queer and global networks theories.


Milija Gluhovic ( is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick. Originally from Sarajevo, his research interests include 20th- and 21st-century European theatre and performance; memory studies; discourses of European identity, migrations and human rights; and critical theory.


Network members

Luiza Bialasiewicz, Royal Holloway

Erin Hurley, McGill University

Phil Jackson, Edge Hill University

Paul Jordan, University of Glasgow

Apostolos Lampropoulos, University of Cyprus

Yana Meerzon, University of Ottawa

Vesna Mikic, University of Arts, Belgrade

Marijana Mitrovic, University of Utrecht

Mari Pajala, University of Turku

Dmitri Priven, University of Ottawa

Peter Rehberg, independent scholar, Berlin

Janelle Reinelt, Warwick University

Toni Sant, University of Hull at Scarborough

Justyna Sempruch, University of Basel

Katrin Sieg, University of Georgetown

Brian Singleton, Trinity College, Dublin

Ioana Szeman, Roehampton University

Marilena Zaroulia, Winchester University