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Eurovision in Times of War: Military Conflict, Post-conflict Memory & Culture Wars

Posted: September 4th, 2023 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

University of Nottingham, U.K., 9-10 November 2023
Organised by the University of Nottingham Centre for Memory Studies and Post-Conflict Cultures, in partnership with the Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

The spectacular interval act of the Eurovision Song Contest final in Stockholm, 2016, ‘Love Love Peace Peace’, simultaneously parodied and celebrated the long-standing centrality to the Eurovision brand of the themes of international harmony and reconciliation. Ever since its inception in 1956, the officially apolitical Eurovision Contest ‘has reflected and become intertwined with the history of postwar Europe from a political perspective’ (D. Vuletic, 2018), as a stage whereupon popular music artists, and their vast global audiences, have engaged with the tensions and terrors of the continent’s ‘Cold War’, the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, conflicting memories of collective trauma, and diverse struggles for democratisation and human rights.

Since the 2014 Russian-backed insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbas region and illegal Russian annexation of Crimea, debate and recriminations regarding the intentional or inadvertent ‘politicisation’ of the contest have intensified, for example with a particular focus on Jamala’s 2016 winning entry for Ukraine, ‘1944’. At the same time, the increasingly bold affirmation of the rights and identities of ethnic, sexual or gender minority communities, and critical responses thereunto, including from the Hungarian state broadcaster MTVA, which withdrew from the contest in 2019 (The Guardian, 27/11/19), have drawn Eurovision into bitter culture wars in states continent-wide. Many such disputes, ostensibly focused on national identity and moral values, have been identified by political analysts as smokescreens for attacks on the rule of law, media independence, or human rights. While, for example, elements aligned with authoritarian and isolationist governments in Poland, Hungary, and the UK denounce the Contest’s promotion of a purportedly degenerate and harmful ‘gender ideology’ lobby, the implicit celebration of ‘progressive’ causes such as environmentalism, gender equality, and LGBTQIA+ emancipation in recent Contest entries from Azerbaijan and Israel has prompted accusations of the ‘pink-washing’ and ‘greenwashing’ of reputations sullied by the former state’s intimidation, detention and torture of critical activists (Human Rights Watch, 2013) and the latter’s continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

In 2022, the expulsion from the Contest of Belarus and of Russia – whose Eurovision entries have consistently won extensive media coverage and high scores – together with the record-breaking victory of Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, inevitably positioned the Contest and its fanbase in relation to a local conflict that has fuelled a global diplomatic and military stand-off, and even claims of a ‘new Cold War’. This conference builds on a recent workshop convened by CMPCS focusing on the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on Eurovision 2023, so as to further investigation of how militarised conflicts affecting members of the European Broadcasting Union have been, and continue to be, prosecuted, mediated, reconciled and remembered through the medium of, and discourses on, popular song and stage performance at Eurovision.

Proposals for contributions focused on, but not limited to, the following topics are warmly invited, by the deadline of Wednesday 20th September 2023:

  • Eurovision performances, voting, fandom, etc. and/as post-conflict reconciliation
  • The Eurovision stage as site of anti-war protest
  • Eurovision acts and post-conflict/ post-traumatic memory
  • Eurovision as vehicle for post-conflict national ‘rebranding’
  • Eurovision and ‘whitewashing’ of conflict or conflict amnesia
  • Eurovision and peace activism
  • Military and militarism in Eurovision acts
  • Military conflicts and the ESC’s evolving definition of what constitutes ‘politicisation’ of contest entries
  • Conflicted politics of national/ European identity and of EU integration
  • Culture wars, identity, and human rights violations, in particular concerning women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, LGBTQIA+, and Roma/Sinti/Traveller communities
  • Eurovision and the 24/02/22 Russian invasion of Ukraine

To facilitate the participation of as wide as possible a community of scholars, this will be a hybrid-form conference (participation either in-person or through MSTeams).

Please send proposals and any requests for further information to:

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

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