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Queering Europe

‘Queering Europe’ the 2nd workshop of the Eurovision and the 'New' Europe research network at the Palazzo Pesaro-Papafava, the University of Warwick’s centre in Venice

Address: Cannaregio 3764, 30121 Venezia, Italy



FRIDAY 1 April, 2011

10-12:30 Workshop (moderator: Milija Gluhovic)

Seminar Room I, the Palazzo

'New Europe and Its Margins: United in Diversity?'

Katarzyna Marciniak

“United in diversity” is an official motto of the European Union: “the motto means that, via the EU, Europeans are united in working together for peace and prosperity, and that many different cultures, traditions and languages in Europe are a positive asset for the continent.”

The connotations such affirmative proclamations induce are obvious: after the separation and segregation of the Cold War years, during which Europe was divided into a superior western sphere with “true” Europeans and an inferior camp with the unfortunate others, the climate has finally changed, reflecting a spirit of reconciliation, enrichment and integration. Having supposedly eliminated the east/west divide with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the New Europe is now unified—an imaginary home ready to welcome all kinds of faces and bodies, willing to stretch its physical and emotional boundaries and recognize diversity as a “positive asset.”

This presentation is drawn from my newly published book, Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland and is intended as a critical framework for the discussion of Eurovision within the boundaries of the New Europe. Offering a variety of visual materials as case studies and focusing on the Polish scene, I contest the paradigm of “united in diversity” and discuss the emergence of new walls, walls after the Wall, that is, the new restrictions that have come into being since 1989, more subtle, more elusive and less visible than those of the past. I discuss how, ironically enough, the rise of democracy in Poland has coincided with the emergence of intensified conservative social practices (aggressive anti-gay governmental campaigns, constitutional enforcement of compulsory classes in Catholicism in elementary schools, the anti-abortion law of 1993). Such internal policing of the “purity” of the national space is further complicated by an influx of various migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers whose presence is only beginning to register in public consciousness. In Poland, whose painful history behind the Wall still lingers, there are all kinds of new walls: the physical walls surrounding the newly formed camps for refugees and undocumented migrants and the invisible social and emotional walls created by the hosts who are, for the most part, culturally unprepared to encounter the racially or ethnically different guests. I discuss these walls in the postsocialist region, but it is crucial to link this phenomenon to the larger context of persistent walling in the New Europe.

Katarzyna Marciniak is Associate Professor of Transnational Studies in the English Department at Ohio University. She is the author of Alienhood: Citizenship, Exile, and the Logic of Difference (2006), co-author of Streets of Crocodiles: Photography, Media, and Postsocialist Landscapes in Poland (2010), co-editor of Transnational Feminism in Film and Media (2007), and of a special issue of Feminist Media Studies on “Transcultural Mediations and Transnational Politics of Difference” (2009). Her work on immigration, discourses of foreignness, pedagogy, postsocialist cultures, and transcultural cinema and literature has appeared in Camera Obscura, Cinema Journal, differences, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Koht ja paik, Panoptikum, Signs, and Social Identities. She is also Series co-Editor of Global Cinema, a new book series from Palgrave.


'Visions of Europe: Eurovision, (homo)sexuality, and “Old” and “New” Europe(s).'

Robert Kulpa

During the workshop, I would like to offer to the group for further discussion a set of problems and issues, which I hope will help us to develop our understanding of the relations between sexualities, performance, “Europe”, and “West” and “East”.

I will begin with excerpts from a documentary “Beyond Pink Curtain”(Charles 2009). The film centers on three countries (Serbia, United Kingdom, Lithuania) to talk about homophobia and sexual rights. The film’s use and narration of Eurovision (held in 2008 in Belgrade) serves as an interesting starting point for the consideration of how “Western Europe” and “Central and Eastern Europe” are represented in terms of “sexual rights progress” and “homophobia”.

I will try to exemplify and explore the relations of the “West” and the “East” (brought about during the first workshop) in the field of sexual and national politics of “EUropean Nationhood” through the documentary’s representation of Serbia and Eurovision 2008 held in Belgrade. In doing so, I will introduce the concept of leveraged pedagogy to describe the hegemonic and unequal relations between “West/Europe” (re-presenter) and “Central and Eastern Europe” (CEE) (re-presented). Leveraged pedagogy, in its simples, would be a strategy of distancing “West/Europe” from “CEE” buy projecting “homophobia” onto “CEE” countries as their innate feature, thus implicitly reinscribing liberal individual values (as in “gay rights”) into the core notion of the “Europe” and “EUropean Nationhood”. At the same time, an undisputable acceptance of “Western solutions” is “offered” as a possibility of “redemption” for the “East”. I will try to show how this mechanism works in the representation case of Eurovision 2008.

Robert Kulpa ( is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck College, London, UK. He is interested in queer studies, sexual and national identities, post-communist and post-colonial studies, “Europe” and discourses of “East” and “West”. Together with Joanna Mizielinska, he is the editor of De-Centring Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives (Ashgate 2011). His other publications include articles in books: 21st Century Political Science (Sage 2010), Sage Encyclopaedia of Gender and Society (Sage 2009), and The EU and Central & Eastern Europe (Ibidem 2009). He is a Guest Editor of the “Queer Studies: Methodological Approaches” (2008, 2009), double Special Issues of the Graduate Journal of Social Science. Please visit his website for further details:


'Inside Western Culture and Marginal to 'Europe': The National Production of Gender in Polish ESC entries'

Justyna Sempruch

Although ‘whiteness’ in recent debates is no longer perceived as a binary to race, it continues as a problematic territory of colour, contingent on its colonial past as well as on the Western history of whiteness. In the same sense that Western culture is much more than a geographical location, European whiteness transpires to represent Europe, and so does the ‘proper’ national accent to represent the Eurovision entry.

My initial and somewhat theoretical concern is to emphasize the necessity to discuss Eastern – Central European difference as a concept that has departed from the ‘incompatibility’ with the Western culture. I will do so by looking at the nationally constructed boundaries of gender as represented by the Polish entries. Although it is yet early to move towards gender difference as a positive, even empowering affirmation of the Eastern European subjects, what is visible through the prism of the Contest is that the structure of subjectivity, the social relations, and the cultural imaginary are on the move.

Since Polish entries do not necessarily confirm the recent Eastern European success at the Contest, the contradictions and asymmetries of power with respect to the choice and the ranking of entries have become central to Polish discussions about the Contest. As a particular consequence of such a politicized perception, Poland seems to be abandoning the symbolical Eastern compound of European margins rejecting its competitive and much more colourful performance. Drawing on the interviews with the selected Polish participants of the Contest as well as comments provided by media, I will discuss the reasons and justifications for, what I should call, rather dully undistinguishable, blank performative choices with respect to the entries, as well as with interests which these choices represent.

I am mostly concerned with the phenomenon of gender identity as constructed by cultural heritage, which I understand as mainstream ideologies that underscore the nation’s need and desire to belong. In this construction, the nation’s autonomy remains engraved with subjugation to the West and speaks to the many imagined and variously performed homecomings and impossible returns to the lost pre-communist order. It also speaks to the obsessive production of safe (traditional) and gendered body which takes place at the costs of one’s own fragile marginality, whereby allowing the subject to claim the culture and build strategic alliances with Western codes of whiteness.

Justyna Sempruch is a Researcher at the Centre for Gender Studies, University of Basel, in Switzerland. She completed her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of British Columbia (2003), and published on philosophical and socio-political intersections of gender, nationality and psychoanalysis, as well as on literature of cultural diaspora. She published her monograph, Fantasies of Gender. The Witch in Western Feminist Theory and Literature (2008) with Purdue University Press Series in Comparative Cultural Studies, and co-edited an anthology, Multiple Marginalities: An Intercultural Dialogue on Gender in Education (2006: Ulrike Helmer Verlag). Over the years 2004-2007 Justyna completed transnational research funded by Swiss National Foundation on the changing concepts of family as well as feminist understanding of women’s participation in economy. Within this research scope, she co-edited another anthology A Life in Balance? Reopening the Family-Work Debate published with the University of British Columbia Press (2010). She is currently running an NGO program in Poland devoted to women’s issues and working on her second monograph to be published with Lambert Academic Publishing House in Germany.


2:30-5:30pm Workshop (moderator: Karen Fricker)

Seminar Room I, the Palazzo

'‘Let me entertain you’: On the 2011 ESC in Düsseldorf'

Brian Singleton and Apostolos Lampropoulos

Professor Brian Singleton holds the Samuel Beckett Chair of Drama and Theatre at Trinity College Dublin, and is Academic Director of The Lir - National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College Dublin. He is President of the International Federation for Theatre Research and former editor of Theatre Research International (Cambridge University Press). He is co-editor (with Janelle Reinelt) of the book series "Studies in International Performance" published by Palgrave/Macmillan. He serves on the Editorial Boards of New Theatre Quarterly and Contemporary Theatre Review. His research interests include orientalism and interculturalism in performance, as well as contemporary Irish and European theatre. His most recent monograph is entitled "Masculinities and the Contemporary Irish Theatre" (published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). His other major publications include two books on the life and work of Antonin Artaud, a monograph on "Oscar Asche, Orientalism and British Musical Comedy" (published by Praeger, 2004), as well as a vast array of book chapters and journal articles centred on his major research interests.

Apostolos Lampropoulos was born in Athens in 1972. He studied Linguistics at the University of Athens (1990-1994) and Literary Theory at the Université Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle ( D.E.A. 1996, Doctorat 2000). He has worked for a University of Thessaloniki project on Demotic Greek Language and Prose of the 16th century (1995-1996) and has taught Modern Greek Literature at the Université Paris X – Nanterre (1997) and at the University of Patras (2002). He currently teaches Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at the University of Cyprus (Visiting Lecturer 2002-2003, Lecturer 2003-). He has received graduate fellowships from the A. S. Onassis (1995-1999) and the A.G. Leventis Foundations (1999-2000), a post-doctoral fellowship from the Hellenic Fellowships Foundation (2002-2003), a Stanley J. Seeger Visiting Fellowship from Princeton University (2003-2004), and grants from the Università degli Studi di Urbino (Centro Internazionale di Semiotica e di Linguistica; 1998) and Cornell University (School of Criticism and Theory; 1999, 2003). .


'Gendering Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitanizing Europe'

Katrin Sieg

At the Eurovision Song Contest, I previously argued, participating nations act out their roles in a shared European imaginary that, in many eastern European contributions, deploys tropes of romance and family to emphasize notions of organic cohesion, while western European countries have tended to prefer tropes less saddled with the structural inequalities figured by gendered and generational difference. I use the term ‘cosmopolitan consociation’ for these newer figurations of European ‘unity in diversity.’

The short first part of the paper examines, through the example of (West) German ESC performances, how nations act out their histories in a shared European imaginary, and shows how Germany’s postnational orientation since the 1980s registers in terms of gender and sexuality. I argue that the contemporary stalling of cosmopolitanism, as the term has shifted from signifying an aspirational, transformative process of ‘democratic iterations’ (Seyla Benhabib) to an ostensibly empirical description of European identity, is reflected in the ambiguous performance of gay sexuality in the 2009 German song Miss Kiss Kiss Bang.

The longer second part of the paper takes a closer look at two eastern European acts. Verka Serduchka’s “Lasha Tumbai” (Ukraine, 2007) and InCulto’s “East European Funk” (Lithuania, 2010) make heteronormative gender the key site for reworking cosmopolitanism, and bring into view the structural inequalities that have historically divided Europeans and continue to shape East-West relations, inequalities that are rendered invisible by the trope of cosmopolitan consociation.

Katrin Sieg is Professor of German jointly affiliated with the German department and the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University (USA). She is the author of three books on 20th and 21st century German-language theater and performance, and has published in the areas of critical race studies, feminist and queer theory, and contemporary popular culture. Her most recent work focuses on immigrant and transnational performance art in Berlin.


'Contradictions of Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism: Eurovision Song Contest, Turkey and the Idea of Europeanization'

Meyda Yeğenoğlu

The construction of a European cultural identity is a project that is in progress, analogous to the nation building process. However, the notion of a unified Europe is a fantasized unity and it is an incomplete one as it is shot with division. The anxiety about the compatibility of different cultures and the harmony that is sought in the Union should be seen as an anxiety about the ‘others within’. The most visible instance where this anxiety can be discerned concerns the possibility of the inclusion of a Muslim country, Turkey, in the Union. This paper examines whether there is there a necessary contradiction between nationalism and cosmopolitanism as some suggest? It asks whether Europe’s cosmopolitanism and nationalism go hand in hand. A series of symbols and representational strategies participate in the constitution of a Europe as a unified entity. However, Europeanness is also about coordinating and cohabiting with difference and diversity; it is about dealing, reconciling and recognizing plurality and strangeness in the midst of the so-called European geography and identity. Eurovision song contest attests to such a process of constitution and can be handled within the framework of the European project. Such non-official popular culture processes contribute significantly to the construction of the imaginary of Europe. If European Union, as a supranational institution is participating in the constitution of a notion of Europe that has more nationalistic resonance and reverberation, then perhaps we can see Eurovision song contest (and even soccer games and other such practices) as participating in the imagination of another, perhaps cosmopolitan Europe which is negotiated across various fronts. A wide range of actors (that span from soccer players to singers in Eurovision contest, to the so-called immigrants and others who are located on the borders and margins of Europe) are perhaps contributing in their own ways to a different process of Europeanization, a process that is difficult to reduce to the strategy of the representational devices of the European Union. These different strategies, which offer a distinct and perhaps a destabilizing representation of Europe from the margins and borders of Europe are perhaps contributing to the reorganization of territoriality and identity of the so-called Europeanness.

Meyda Yeğenoğlu is a professor of Cultural Studies at Bilgi University, Istanbul-Turkey. Shehas held visiting appointments at Columbia University, Oberlin College, RutgersUniversity, New York University, University of Vienna and Oxford University.She is the author of Colonial Fantasies; Towards a Feminist Reading ofOrientalism (Cambridge University Press,1998). She has numerous essayspublished in various journals and edited volumes such as FeministPostcolonial Theory; Postcolonialism,Feminism and Religious Discourse; NineteenthCentruy Literature Criticism; Postmodern Culture; Race and Ethnic Relations;Culture and Religion; Inscriptions;Religion and Gender; Handbook of Contemporary Social and Political Theory;State, Religion and Secularization; Feminism and Hospitality; Toplum ve Bilim; Defter; and Doğu-Batı.Her book on Islam, Migrancy and Hospitality is forthcoming.



'Competing Femininities: A Girl for Europe?'

Elaine Aston

This paper turns a feminist gaze on Eurovision – a gaze that looks in two directions. The first part sets out to reflect on how and why it is that, as the French writer and critic Nicole Ward Jouve puts it ‘people go back’ – or why it is that the feminist ‘pendulum’ swings backwards and forwards (White Woman Speaks With Forked Tongue, 1991). I set the academic feminist pendulum swinging through the Eurovision contest to trace a millennial trend of ‘girling’ women’s empowerment. Illustrating this through Erener’s ‘self-orientalising’ ‘Every Way That I Can’ (Turkey, 2003), my reflections draw on Angela McRobbie’s feminist critique of ‘a new sexual contract’ (The Aftermath of Feminism, 2009) to account for a (re)-regulation of gender norms. By contrast, part two of my discussion turns Ward Jouve’s question around to ask what can make women go forward (in a feminist direction)? With this in mind, it looks at the contest to ask in what ways it reflects more recent signs of a dis-identification or disenchantment with the hyper-sexualised, hyper-feminised girl for Europe. With brief attentions to Serifovic’s performance in 2007 and Lena‘s performance in 2010, I speculate as to whether what McRobbie describes as the ‘illegible rage’ of young women constrained by high maintenance femininities might be visible, legible in the popularity of these ‘other’ girls for Europe. I ask whether the hidden depths of that rage might be gathering momentum to crack open a post-feminist ‘girl power’ surface.

Elaine Aston is Professor of Contemporary Performance at Lancaster University, UK. Her monographs include Caryl Churchill (1997/ 2001/2010); Feminist Theatre Practice (1999) and Feminist Views on the English Stage (2003). She is the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Women Playwrights (2000, with Janelle Reinelt); Feminist Futures: Theatre, Performance, Theory (2006, with Geraldine Harris), Staging International Feminisms (2007, with Sue-Ellen Case), and The Cambridge Companion to Caryl Churchill (2009, with Elin Diamond). She currently serves as Senior Editor of Theatre Research International.

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SATURDAY 2nd April

10am - 1 pm Workshop

Seminar Room I, the Palazzo

'Framing Eurovision: Notes toward a Prologue'

Janelle Reinelt

Professor Reinelt is one of the most internationally respected academics in the discipline, recently receiving the Distinguished Scholar Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society for Theatre Research (2010). She has served a four-year term as the President of the International Federation for Theatre Research, the leading international academic organisation for theatre and performance studies. She is co-editor of the series Studies in International Performance for Palgrave Macmillan and an ex-editor of Theatre Journal. Her major area of interest is contemporary performance with an emphasis on contemporary British theatre, and international performance research and pedagogy.

Her books include After Brecht: British Epic Theatre (1994), Critical Theory and Performance (1992, co-edited with Joseph Roach; new and revised edition 2007), The Performance of Power: Theatrical Discourse and Politics (1991, co-edited with Sue-Ellen Case), The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Women Playwrights (2000, with Elaine Aston), Crucibles of Change: Social Change and Performance (2000) and Gender in Cultural Performances (2005).

In July 2011, her latest book, co-authored with her partner, political philosopher Gerald Hewitt, will be published by Cambridge University Press: The Political Theatre of David Edgar: Negotiation and Retrieval. She was the international member of the review team for Theatre and Performance Studies for the Research Assessment Exercise while teaching at University of California Irvine, and she is currently a member of the Peer Review College for AHRC.