Click on the Book icon icon to read a paper's abstract.

Friday 29 February 2008

Coffee Reception - Welcome – Registration
Panel 1: Glocal Ambitions / Dreams of the East

Chair: Aimilios Tsekenis (Department of Social Anthropology and History, University of Aegean, Greece)

Dean Vuletic (Department of History, Columbia University, U.S.A.)
Click to read the abstract A show of non-alignment: Yugoslavia's international relations and the Eurovision song contest

During the Cold War the Eurovision Song Contest had a special significance in the cultural life of Yugoslavia: it was, after all, the only socialist, Slavic and Eastern European country that took part in the contest, due to its non-aligned status in international affairs and its willingness to engage in cultural cooperation with the West. Participation in Eurovision affirmed Yugoslavia’s membership in a Western cultural sphere and portrayed it as the most culturally liberal, modern and open part of Eastern Europe - while simultaneously masking some of the undesirable similarities that Yugoslavia had with other Eastern European states, such as limits on artistic and political freedoms. However, Yugoslavia’s performances at Eurovision were not very successful until the 1980s, and during the 1960s and 1970s the low scores that they were receiving prompted a public debate in Yugoslavia on whether the contest was actually doing more harm than good to the country’s international image.

My paper will discuss the cultural and political ambivalence that characterised Yugoslavia’s participation in Eurovision during the Cold War, when Yugoslav cultural and political elites pursued cultural exchange with the West but at the same time questioned whether they were accepted by it on equal terms; when they tried to imitate Western trends in popular culture but were also critical of the “capitalist vices” that accompanied them; and when they sought to use Western-style popular music to promote a modern image of Yugoslavia, but also questioned how appropriate it was for a domestic variant of it to incorporate folk influences. I will argue that Eurovision was an arena in which Yugoslavs shaped their own identities through their interaction with the West, but that it also exposed how Yugoslavia’s cultural openness to the world - which was touted by its government as a distinguishing feature of Yugoslav socialism - was not unproblematic culturally, ideologically or politically. In short, Yugoslavia’s non-alignment brought it international political security, a unique geopolitical identity and was its ticket to entering Eurovision, but it had a side-effect of cultural anxiety.

My research is based on materials collected from Yugoslav periodicals from the 1950s until today, as well as documents from archives in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia. The latter include reports from ministries of culture and minutes of meetings from Yugoslav Radio and Television which expose the concerns that officials had over Yugoslavia’s participation in Eurovision and the impact of Western popular music on Yugoslav society.

Vesna Mikic (University of Arts, Belgrade, Serbia)
Click to read the abstract (Re) inventing identities/ (re)uniting spaces. A case of ex-Yu participants at the Eurovision song contest (2004-2007)

The participation of ex-Yu countries at the Eurovision Song Contest in recent years have further sharpened the nowadays common Eurosong issues, ranging from organizational (e.g. tele-voting system) to aesthetic ones. Our attention here is focused on the years of the Serbia’s comeback to the Eurosong, as Serbia and Montenegro in 2004, and for the first time in 2007 as Serbia. The unexpectedly good rating of Serbian participant in 2004, could be partly explained with world music’s discovery of the Balkan’s that was used for establishing the “model” for Serbian success that is to be recycled in the following 2005, 2006 not only by Serbia and Montenegro representatives, but, as we shall show by the representatives of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, too. Since the “model” achieved in Lane moje relies heavily on (re)invented Serbian identities (at once archaic and modern, “authentic” and international, masculine and pacific, etc.) that are to be seen in music, lyrics and “image” meant in the same time for European and domestic markets, we should try to trace it further in the songs from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally in the winning song of 2007 in order to point out the features that actually reflect and constitute a kind of (re)united space (the means of tele-voting included) of common market strategies.

Paul Jordan (Department of Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract Singing their way into Europe? Estonia and Ukraine

This paper will address the following key themes and questions from my ongoing PhD research on the Eurovision Song Contest, by presenting initial findings of fieldwork conducted in Estonia and Ukraine during the autumn of 2007. Recent Eurovision victories by Estonia (2001) and Ukraine (2004) have demonstrated the tremendous significance attached to staging the contest by those post-socialist states pursuing the goal of a ‘return to Europe’. After Estonia’s victory at the 2001 contest the Prime Minister at the time declared that Estonians had freed themselves from the Soviet Union through the power of song and were now singing their way into Europe. From a western perspective it is unthinkable that a Prime Minister would give the Eurovision Song Contest such prominence and yet in Estonia it was clearly a massively important event for the little-known country.

The opportunity to stage such a large scale international event was a challenge which both the Governments and respective national broadcasters relished. The contest was afforded great importance by Estonia – an EU candidate country at the time and Ukraine, a country desperately looking to improve their international image. The Eurovision Song Contest was seen as a vehicle for “image building” in Europe. However what were the deeper debates and was all as positive as it would first seem?

My doctoral research asks who ultimately took the decisions on how the contests were staged in each respective country. What “official” representations of national identity have the countries concerned chosen to present through either hosting or participating? How contested have these representations been? Who decided to link Eurovision with the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and to what extent did this represent “Ukraine”? Did some people view the contest as a waste of resources? Can the contest be a force for uniting the often divided post-soviet citizens and is the contest still significant 5 and 2 years on respectively?

Karin Strand (Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research, Sweden)
Click to read the abstract Performing affiliation: on lyrical articulations of 'Swedishness' versus 'Europeaness' in the Swedish national preliminaries of the Eurovision song contest

This paper analyzes certain songs from the Swedish national final of Eurovision Song Contest, the “Melodifestivalen”, 1958 – 2007, songs which all deal, implicit or explicitly, with the issue of place.

The context of selecting an entry for the international final involves the double aim of representing Sweden and appealing to a wider European audience. The assumption is that this complex task influences the lyrical content, in some cases on a manifest level by the use of different topos. The two main categories of songs that are discussed here respond to two different sides of this quest. To put it simple, they describe variations of “home” (including certain notions of Swedish/Nordic “folk” culture in music, lyrics and dressing), and “out there” (by the textual use of cosmo-/europolitan cities, commonplaces, historical celebrities et c). These spatial tropes also contain temporal aspects.

The paper examines textual and performing strategies in representing “national specificity” on the one side, and the belonging of a global/European popular culture community on the other.


Saturday 1 March 2008

Keynote Speaker
Philip Bohlman (The University of Chicago, U.S.A.)
Click to read the abstract Tempus edax rerum. Time and the making of the Eurovision Song

Time and temporality are of the essence for the European Song Contest. From the three minutes allotted to every song entry to the cycle of rituals that unfold over the course of the Eurovision year, time assumes many forms, small and large, textual and contextual, within the music and without. In my keynote at the Volos Eurovision conference I focus on the many dimensions of time to bring different perspectives to bear on the Eurovision song itself. At a structural level, I look analytically at the ways in which songwriters and singers explore and exploit the possibilities of three minutes, formally and metaphorically. At the level of spectacle, I concern myself with the ways in which time mediates the relation between style and genre, on one hand, and narrative and lyrical meaning, on the other. The intersection of ritual and cyclical time and the ways in which a Eurovision song can and cannot risk the possibility of being ideologically timely provides yet a third level in the paper. Finally, I complete the scaffolding of temporal meanings in the Eurovision song by considering history, particularly the negotiation between past and present, through reductive retrospection and radical revival.

By exploring the multiple dimensions of temporality in the Eurovision song, I consciously raise questions about the ways in which scholars of the Eurovision Song Contest may understand “the music itself.” I pose the further metaphysical question, Is there something to which we can refer to as the “Eurovision song?” The Eurovision song, I believe, compresses and even collapses time, intensifying the meaning individual songs express as they mark the many moments of annual ritual. The Eurovision song, especially the winning entries, invert time in order that the music can embody both self and other, creating a constellation of signifiers for the identities of music, nation, and Europe. The Eurovision song, therefore, cannot just be any song flexible enough to fit the criteria of the Grand Prix, rather it has the potential to exploit the full array of temporal dimensions in order to do the cultural and historical work accrued to the Eurovision Song Contest over the past half-century.

Panel 2: Mediated Phantasmagorias / Technologies of the Spectacular

Chair: Penelope Papailias (Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly, Greece)

David Reinecke & Philip Rocco (History and Sociology of Science / Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)
'Who will announce to them what has happened in their lands?' Towards a Euro-visual political economy

Abstract is not available.

Vaclav Stetka (Department of Media Studies and Journalism, Masaryk University, the Czech Republic)
Click to read the abstract Unintended effects of a media event: Czech Republic in its first Eurovision song contest

In this paper, I present a case study of the media representation and audience reception of the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in the Czech Republic, which participated in this contest for the first time in its history. Drawing on the theory of media events (Dayan – Katz, 1992), I focus mainly on the question to what extent did the course and outcomes of the event correspond to the theoretical definition of this genre, especially in regards to its alleged ceremonial and socio-integrative functions. The content analysis of major Czech press and television coverage of the event, combined with the figures concerning Czech audience responses to it, reveal that the 2007 ESC differed significantly both from the “ideal type” of a media event prescribed by Dayan and Katz, as well from the shape and symbolic role this televised contest has for many other European countries. For as the case study demonstrates, the event was poorly organized and promoted by the Czech public service television; it was opposed and disdained by a majority of the Czech press; and it failed to attract large part of the Czech audience. Apart from these findings, the paper also highlights and explores the problem of different and potentially conflicting layers of allegiance which media events might support, especially when aimed at trans-national audiences like the Eurovision Song Contest. For as the Czech case study has shown, an event originally designed to enhance mutual understanding between European nations and promoted as a manifestation of European cultural diversity can unintentionally produce reactions which work in precisely opposite way, and while reaffirming the feelings of national exceptionality and cultural superiority (“We do not want to be part of this”), they reinforce the already existing anti-European sentiments.

Dafni Tragaki (Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly, Greece)
Click to read the abstract Sounds of monstrosity. Spectacular ontologies of Europeaness

In 2006, the crowning of the monsters as the Eurovision kings was largely discussed as a kind of diversion from the hitherto Eurovision aesthetics; an extravagant victory in the history of the Eurovision song contest. Lordi, following the tradition of Scandinavian metal rock, performed as the supernatural creatures coming from a mythical cosmos popularly associated with a mysterious and timeless European antiquity imagined here as a gothic fairy tale. The musical monsters seemed to spectacularise, in their own terms, an inverted vision of Europe, since their monstrosity emphatically defied the very idea of the civilized Homo Europaeus who makes civilized music. Moreover, the freaks from the Arctic circle wished to animate playfully an era of European history being commonly understood as contrary to that of the age of reason, the age that entertained the enlightened idea of universal Europe – the vision of Europe, served, in this case, by the institution of the Eurovision Song contest. Nonetheless, the spectacle of neo-medieval horror glam rock offered by Lordi made the idea of Europe at least more fascinating and thus more appealing as it may feed the fantasy of a Europe that can also be obscurely majestic, dramatic and eternal. Lordi’s performance invites us to think of the monsters as a metaphor for Europe; the monstrous, enlarged Europe, greedy for power, yet troubled - if not frightened - by its own monstrosity. The ‘Rock ‘n Roll Hallelujah’ becomes the metal prayer that sonifies the ‘new’ Europe - as imagined by the European Union - envisioned here as a Land of Promise. Lordi’s so-called, ‘Arockalypse’ is a song for the end of history; a song imbued with endism. A teleological sonification that articulates Europe in a state of aporia as Europe faces its own return: that of the idea of Europe as a rehabilitated whole anxious to scream its wholeness.

Phil Jackson (Department of Media, Edge Hill University, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract If they gave out medals for music: the branding of the Eurovision song contest

In 2004 the European Broadcasting Union branded the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) for the first time. What does the branding of the ESC tell us about the organisation of this media event and our experiences of it?

Whilst the European Union’s Television Without Frontiers directive established an audio visual policy which sought to protect pluralism, cultural diversity and the preservation of national identity, in recent years the rhetoric from the organisers of the ESC has used a collective metaphor for the blurring of national identity, social and political differences.

This paper will examine whether the branding of the ESC has constructed common (agreed) cultural reference points that suggest a sense of European identity, or done little more than commodify the Contest and make it visible within the global marketplace (offering a Marxist critique). An analysis of the visual rhetoric of the branding of the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Eurovision Song Contests will examine discourses relating to the tripartite levels of branding that are identifiable here – of the contest itself, the winning (host) country and the competing participants (national broadcasters). In addition, it will consider whether the ESC is increasingly a culturally neutral space (links here to branding and homogeneity) or one which coheres the pan-European audience. The organisation and branding of media events such as this will be placed in context with other major media events, such as the Olympic Games, the World Cup and the Academy Awards in order to suggest the significance of the recent branding of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Coffee Break
Panel 3: Cartographies of the Body / Sexualized States

Chair: Venetia Kantsa (Department of Social Anthropology and History, University of Aegean, Greece)

Milija Gluhovic (School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies, University of Warwick, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract The ethnic drag from the East: performing race, nation, and sexuality in the Eurovision song contest

The Eurovision Song Contest, with its own unique, imaginative and aesthetic modality, has been seen as a symbolic contact zone between European cultures, an arena for European identification in which both national solidarity and participation in a European identity are co-confirmed. I argue that it could equally be seen as a site where cultural struggles over the meanings, frontiers and limits of Europe as well as similarities and differences existing within it are enacted. As the West expands towards the East, the persistent investments in exclusionary tactics shift towards precarious post/communist locations currently emerging as new cartographies of neo-liberal power. These locations have a double task to perform: catch up with the economy by maintaining political peripheral position, and reproduce filters/boundaries that hold proper bodies and expel improper (those less and less white coming from the expending East).The relation between the hegemonic Western identity and the ‘substandard’ Eastern European identity with its multiplicity of identifications (European ‘centrality’, Western South, Balkan, and most significantly the East that precariously extends beyond the safety of Europe) call for some knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange, especially on the subject of identity. The question to start with is whether such a dialogue is at all possible. How can the hegemony converse with the marginal, colonized or invisible (Mohanty 1991; Braidotti 2002)? Employing the concept of ‘ethnic drag’ (Sieg 2002), both the parody of gender and the performance of ‘race’ (nation) as a masquerade, I examine complex ways in which East European artists perform, disavow or contest their racial, national, and sexual identities in the Eurovision. I argue that the East European ethnic drag simultaneously erases and redraws boundaries posturing as ancient and immutable. As a technique of estrangement, drag denounces that which dominant ideology presents as natural, normal, and inescapable, without always offering another truth. And as a simulacrum of ‘race,’ it challenges the perceptions and privileges of those who would mistake appearance for essence.

Heiko Motschenbacher (Linguistics Department, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Germany)
Click to read the abstract Linguistic identity construction in the Eurovision song contest

This paper presents some work in progress from a postdoctoral research project that deals with linguistic identity constructions in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). It concentrates on three identity facets: national, pan-European and sexual identities. As the project belongs to the realm of linguistics, research data mainly consist of language as used in ESC lyrics and in the proceedings of the event, with language choice and discursive identity formation as the central objects of study. Theoretical influences come from a range of research paradigms, namely Eurolinguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis, Poststructuralist Discourse Analysis, sociolinguistic studies in the field of "Language and Sexuality", and especially Queer Theory, from which the central concepts of "passing" and "performativity" will be adopted to explain linguistic mechanisms of identification in ESC performances. Finally, national, pan-European and sexual identity construction will be illustrated by presenting typical examples of identity stylisation from the contest. A special focus here will be on the interrelation of these three identity facets.

Apostolos Lampropoulos (Department of French Studies, University of Cyprus)
Click to read the abstract Not exactly 'all kinds of everything': delimiting the Euro-Body

This paper discusses several versions of the ‘Eurovision body’ and questions the assumption that ‘anything goes’ on the Eurovision stage. Based on archive material, it examines a number of Eurovision acts and the way fans react to them; therefore, it places special emphasis on the ‘official’ receptions of the contest as they are expressed through articles and spontaneous reactions posted on the numerous relevant websites, such as Esctoday, Dot Eurovision and Oikotimes. The purpose of this paper is to elucidate how the Eurovision pantheon and the Euro-body canon are established. Its theoretical references include Garland-Thompson’s Extraordinary Bodies, Milon’s La Realite virtuelle: avec ou sans le corps?, Le Breton’s La Peau et la trace and Manning’s Politics of Touch.

Quite often Euro-bodies are invested with elements such as ‘exotic’ bodily features and costumes. Those bodies are rather popular when they look ethnic and somehow eccentric (Denmark 1981, Netherlands 1989, France 1990, 1991 and 1992), more or less acceptable when they look overtly national (Greece 1992 and 1997, Portugal 1996, Moldova 1997), deplorable when they recall non European, especially American, realities (Netherlands 1979, Yugoslavia 1991, Sweden 2005, Germany 2006, Malta 2007) and totally improper when they relate to religion (Sweden 2006).

On a different level, pregnant (Denmark 1984 and 1988, Croatia 2001), adolescent (Luxemburg 1967, Ireland 1970, Denmark 1985, Belgium 1986, France 1989, Israel 1989) and elderly (Netherlands 1994, Russia 1997) bodies undergo a kind of aesthetization excluding any kind of Euro-passion. On the other hand, obese bodies (Netherlands 1993, Malta 1998, Malta 2005) seem to gain a good deal of popularity, while blind ones (Spain 1992 and 2001, Germany 2002) only receive some sympathy. As politically incorrect as it may sound, most forms of Euro-unsexiness are hardly acceptable by the fans community.

Practices of revealing and concealing the Eurovision body are also interesting: there is a remarkable tradition of female barefoot singers (UK 1967, Spain 1983, Sweden 1987, France 1991) and a long series of moderate strip acts (Germany 1977, UK 1981, Croatia 1998, Latvia 2002, Greece 2004, Belarus 2005), as well as a persistent mythology of the over-protected Israeli body enveloped in flak jackets (Israel 1973 and 1983). What should be examined here is a strange politics both of preserving the Eurovision body and imposing limits to its nakedness.

Finally, gay (Luxemburg 1987, Israel 2000, Bosnia-Herzegovina 2004), lesbian (Russia 2003, Serbia 2007), transvestite (Denmark 2007, Ukraine 2007), transgender (Israel 1998), or even pansexual (Iceland 1997) bodies are constantly celebrated by fans, not to mention that Eurovision has always been an incredibly productive machine of local and global gay icons (Greece 1974, Germany 1975, Cyprus 1982, Switzerland 1988, Israel 1989, UK 1996, Turkey 2006). In fact, the only body which seems to be either regularly ignored or a priori condemned to negative comments, is the solidly straight male body (Turkey 1983, Italy 1984, Portugal 1987, Sweden 1988, Romania 2002).

Lunch Break
Panel 4: Inverted Eurovisions / Parody, Kitch and Tele-reality

Chair: Pavlos Kavouras (Department of Music Studies, University of Athens, Greece)

Karen Fricker (Department of Drama and Theater, Royal Holloway, University of London, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract The Eurovision song contest: kitsch or camp?

This paper takes as its jumping-off point two compelling recent assertions about the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). One is Paul Allatson’s argument that the ESC, because of its inherent kitsch quality, is at the avant-garde of negotiation of European ethno-national diversity amongst competing countries. Understanding kitsch as “a mode the mediates the superficial relations between self and Other,” Allatson argues that the ESC provides a site for the non-threatening and relatively non-consequential negotiation of national differences, allowing for a “functionally superficial imaginary of [European] unity.” Peter Rehberg, on the other hand, argues that the ESC is inherently and fundamentally camp in its “unwittingly comical” merging of nationality and musical representation: “the serious task of representing a country by pop performance cannot but fail.” The key to contemporary Eurovision success, in Rehberg’s view, is to “acknowledge the [Contest’s] inevitable campiness and translate it into entertainment value.” Where these two readings of the ESC diverge is on the issue of knowingness: for Allatson, the functionality of the Contest as a buffer zone for the negotiation of difference in a European context depends on the existence (or at least the successful performance?) of an attitude of innocence and sincerity on the part of its stakeholders, an attitude that is inherently kitsch. For Rehberg, the ESC continues to work culturally because of a tacit, knowing acknowledgement amongst its stakeholders of its inconsequentiality -- that is, its inherent campness. This paper will put these Western-led readings of the ESC to the test in analysing the current dominance of Eastern European countries over the Contest, and will ask if that dominance can be understood in terms of kitsch/camp qualities or if it rather requires consideration of a possible third way.

Ioannis Polychronakis (Department of Musicology, St Hugh's College, University of Oxford, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract Greece in Eurovision: 'a song for Europe'?

Listening carefully to all twenty-seven Greek entries for the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) may reveal a great deal about the country’s perception of Europe and of its national identity through popular music. In the seventies and eighties, songs, choreographies and stage set-up seemed to betray a degree of bewilderment about the country’s ‘appropriate’ and successful representation on the Eurovision stage. However, Greece’s musical ‘disorientation’ in the ESC gave way to a more ethnic, yet ‘modern’ performance style in later years, which yielded the country’s first Eurovision victory in 2005. Naturally, the popularity of the ESC has been on the increase ever since, and the Contest has now become the ultimate yearly media event in Greece. In May 2007, for instance, the popular television presenter Anita Pania gave her own version of a Greek National Final, which was entitled ‘Je-t’aime-vision Song Contest, Athens 2007’. This mock ‘National Final’ was as idiosyncratic, unconventional and controversial as Pania’s weekly show (‘Je t’aime’). By comparing Greece’s official preselection process in 2005, 2006 and 2007 with Pania’s alternative ‘National Final’, in this paper I examine the various ways in which national perceptions of Greek music and popular culture are played out in the media hype surrounding the Contest. Concurrently, I focus on Greek people’s reactions to constructions of national and musical identities, presented on Greek mass media within the context of Greece’s representation in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ailleen Dillane (The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick)
Click to read the abstract 'My Lovely Horse': Parody, Intertextuality, and Critique in Fr Ted's 'A Song for Europe'

The 1996 episode of the highly acclaimed British-produced Irish comedy Fr. Ted, entitled ‘A Song for Europe’, follows the journey of the show’s main protagonists to the national finals where victory ensures qualification for the Eurovision Song Contest. The talentless Fr. Ted and Fr. Dougal enter the competition with their own song “My Lovely Horse”. This song, which proves to be of suspect melodic provenance and questionable lyrical content, ends up wining at the national level but scoring ‘null points’ at the Eurovision Song Contest. This play between plagiarism and legitimate borrowing central to the internal plot is cleverly echoed in super-structural, intertextual referencing of various former entries in the Eurovision Song Contest (including in the video for Fr Ted and Fr. Dougal’s song which is based on "That's What Friends Are For" by The Swarbriggs, a genuine Irish Eurovision competitor in 1975). Many such examples of diagetic and non-diagetic plagiarism and parody provide, on one hand, a stinging critique of Eurovision songs as derivative and self-referential, and on the other an insightful assessment of the continued popularity of a ‘genus’ of Eurovision song reproduced and centrally featured in competition each year. The adjudication system is similarly lampooned as Ted and Dougal are strategically ‘chosen’ to win locally because they are undoubtedly destined to fail at the next level and therefore relieve Ireland of the burden of having to stage the Eurovision yet again. In this respect, ‘My Lovely Horse’ captures a particular historical moment in its documentation of local mixed attitudes toward the Eurovision at the time when Irish entries dominated the competition, resulting in considerable national pride but also a jaundiced view of concomitant staging expenses. Ultimately, the episode proves itself to be a highly relevant critique of the Eurovision Song Contest in general, some eleven years on.

Coffee Break
Panel 5: Pop Europe / The Poetics of Eurosong

Chair: Kostas Giannakopoulos (Department of Social Anthropology and History, University of Aegean, Greece)

Irena Miholic (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Croatia)
Click to read the abstract Behind the Politics: Musicians and their view of Eurovision song contest

Since independence, actually since 1993, Croatia is a regular member of the Eurovision Song Contest. Musicians who participates at the ESC are winners of the festival Dora, an annual event organized by the national public broadcaster Hrvatska radio televizija [Croatian Radio-Television]. During last 15 years, European public could here female and male singers and groups, singing in Croatian and in English, mostly love pop songs (except the song “Don’t ever cry” in 1993) in various arrangements, very similar to the songs from other countries.

In this paper I will shift the focus from collective to the individual. I will try to answer some questions concerning music, media and nation from musician’s point of view: do they think about winning and representing Croatia as a nation when they apply a song for the national contest? Do they think „nationally“ or „popularly“? How they show „Croatian nationality“ in songs? Do they feel the need to show it at all? Or do they take a song which shows their musical qualities the best? What is more important for them: music, show or politics? And how strong is performer’s role in the final decision about the stage performance at the ESC?

My research is based on observation, musical analysis and interviews with song writers and performers who took part at the ESC, as well as with performers who were only at the national festival Dora.

Derek Scott (School of Music, University of Leeds, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract Imagining the Nation, Imagining Europe

The prime question that motivates my paper is: To what extent do the musical styles employed in Eurovision songs attempt to reconcile the desire to give voice to individual national identity with the ambition to address the values of a wider European community? Over the years of the contest, trends have shifted back and forth between the representation of national character and the representation of a broader identity, that of Europe as a homogeneous cultural entity, one with shared principles concerning human rights, freedom of expression, secularism, and the reasoned settlement of disputes. Thus, a song containing music typical of one particular nation may have lyrics on the topic of peace and harmony between nations.

How far such a strategy succeeds, however, is a matter for debate. At one time, voting patterns by the various national juries were thought to be politically motivated, but now that telephone voting is the norm the suspicion has arisen that people are voting for their neighbours, or for countries that they identify with ethnically. In this, Greece and Cyprus are regarded as having been in the vanguard. My paper concludes, therefore, by asking if there is any recipe for Eurovision success to be found in the music and lyrics of former winning songs, or if it is all down to the performers, their costumes and choreographed routines, and the esteem felt for their countries on one particular night in one particular year.


Sunday 2 March 2008

Keynote Speaker
Martin Stokes (St. John's College, University of Oxford, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract Civility and Cynicism in Cosmopolitan Europe: A View from Eurovision

This paper suggests an understanding of Eurovision in terms of the spectacularization of Euro-civility and cynicism. Beck (2008) recently described Europe as 'the last realistic political utopia', a recognition that, in many ways, the stakes have never been higher. In this context, debate about Europe, at various levels, has shifted from the cultural to the civic. What, then, might be involved in thinking of various Eurovision projects in these terms? I explore the issue with reference to some Turkish and Irish examples.

Panel 6 Alluring 'Others' / Visions of Belonging

Chair: Ioanna Laliotou (Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly, Greece)

Irving Wolther (Institute for Journalism and Communications Research, Hanover University of Music and Drama, Germany)
Click to read the abstract 'Clash of cultures' The Eurovision song contest used as a means of national-cultural representation

The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is the biggest competition for popular music in the world, and the most successful entertaining program in Europe. It holds a singular position within everyday television, comparable to big international sports events. For the audience the ESC has become a television ritual, due to its periodicity, its standardized and unvarying formal structure and the feeling of being part of a community based on patterns of national and cultural identification. Though, the ESC does not have the same importance in all the participating countries. The definition of seven ‘dimensions of meaning’ (media, musical, musical-economical, political, national-cultural, national-economical, competitive) leads to the assumption that the national differences in using the ESC for representation are related to the importance of these dimensions in the various countries.

To verify the hypothesis, the 36 Heads of Delegation to the 49th Eurovision Song Contest in Istanbul, acting as representatives of their national broadcasting companies, were asked to agree or disagree with statements related to these dimensions. For further analysis the answers were provided with data related with the demographic, economical, political, musical and media situations in the corresponding countries.

The results confirm the theory of German sociologist Reinhard Bendix (1996): the more a country can be seen as a democratic and industrial ‘latecomer’ in comparison to the Western European ‘avant-garde’ nations, the more likely it is to show its cultural diversity, since national culture is regarded as a key to the country’s future success. They also confirm that the ESC is a show with great potential for national-cultural representation that is recognised and actively used by many national broadcasters. This potential seems to be endless since the classification between ‘latecomers’ and the ‘avant-garde’ among the participating countries is not fixed and the emphasis put upon national-cultural issues therefore subject to change.

Tony Langlois (Department of Music, University College Cork, Ireland)
Click to read the abstract The singing tiger: the rise and fall of Eurovision Ireland

During the 1990’s Ireland won the Eurovision song contest four times and came second once. Including two previous wins this makes it the most successful country in the competition’s history. Since then, Irish songs have failed to score highly; 2006’s entry came last. Ireland’s most successful period coincided with unique sociocultural circumstances; an unprecedented boom in the domestic economy (which came to be known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’); the presidency of the European Union; entry to the finals of the soccer World Cup; and the international success of the ‘Riverdance’ stage show (itself a Eurovision spin off). This paper suggests that in the 1990’s, European citizens had become favourably disposed towards this small nation, as it emerged from decades of post-colonial economic malaise. Ireland had no history of wars with neighbours, except ex-colonising Britain, was exotically ‘celtic’, whilst uncomplicatedly ‘white’ and Christian. I will argue that in pre Nice Treaty Europe, Ireland’s ‘brand’ had an appeal to Eurovision voters that was not primarily musical, but was influenced by the country’s political neutrality and it’s success as a modernising, enthusiastic EU member from the Atlantic fringe. I will proceed to show that more recent failures in the ESC are similarly related to changing perceptions of the country since ‘Nice’. No longer is Ireland the ‘poor neighbour’ in a Europe which has shifted its centre Eastwards - new voting countries regard it as relatively wealthy. Its neutrality has been compromised by tangential involvement in the occupation of Iraq, and it initially voted against European expansion. Immigration has brought demographic changes which have changed both Ireland’s self image, and it’s own voting patterns in the ESC. The paper concludes with observations of shifting Irish attitudes towards the ESC over the last twenty years, which have mirrored its levels of success in the competition.

Catherine Baker (School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College of London, U.K.)
Click to read the abstract Dancing at the gates of Europe: statehood, boundaries, and Croatian participation in the Eurovision Song Contest

The significance of ‘Europe’ to Croatian national identity narratives implies that the Eurovision Song Contest is a site where the imagined boundaries of Croatian culture are tested. If Croatia is an integral part of Europe where Croats have heroically resisted the advance of a foreign/Balkan/eastern civilisation, then Croatian culture ought not to include ‘eastern’ elements – yet often does. These debates frequently involve popular music, ‘eastern’-sounding folk-pop from Serbia and Bosnia symbolising a constitutive Other. Therefore, Croatian Television (HTV)’s choices in representing national culture to an international audience require broadcasters, musicians and viewers to take positions in these inclusion and exclusion processes.

Croatia’s first independent Eurovision entry (1993) forced HTV to define its representation of national musical culture. At a time when a Slavonian folk instrument, the tamburica, was being endorsed inside Croatia as the basis for new, authentically Croatian pop, HTV controversially rejected tamburica music from the 1993 pre-selection. The symbolic logic of Eurovision, like international sporting events, as proving a state’s membership among the ‘world of nations’ (Michael Billig) led to the Croatian state viewing Eurovision similarly to sport: it confirmed the international legitimacy of Croatian statehood, promoted Croatia’s fundamental differences from Communist Yugoslavia, and reflected individual competitive success on to the state itself.

Since 2003, a model of ‘essentialised folklore’ has come to dominate Eurovision performance; its exploitation by Serbia-Montenegro (2004-05) challenged the cherished picture of Croatia as Eurovision’s most successful ex-Yugoslav republic. When HTV adopted the same strategy in 2006, the folk music/dance which inspired the presentation originated from a region (Herzegovina/Dalmatinska zagora) whose culture is frequently subject to ‘internal Othering’ for its problematic easternness, and its appropriateness to represent Croatia at Eurovision was disputed. While the content of the 1993 and 2006 cases differs, both illustrate how Eurovision participation acts as a crisis point for the imaginary of Croatia-in-Europe: here, a cultural and historical narrative tailored to a domestic gaze is exposed to scrutiny from the mythologised ‘Europeans’ themselves.

Coffee Break
Round Table
Philip Bohlman, Pavlos Kavouras, Martin Stokes