TGE: Why Should Social Scientists Care about Eurovision?

Tutkain goes Eurovision is a series of articles about the legendary song contest written by social scientists.

Text: Roy Sandberg

I cannot consider myself an expert of the Eurovision by any means after having only casually followed the annual contest at irregular intervals. My indifference has been mostly motivated by the prohibition of politics which the Eurovision imposes. As a social scientist, one is naturally taken aback by such a ban. Regardless of this stance against propaganda, there is certainly an air of civic activism surrounding the show.

The Eurovision has become distinguished as a floor for identitarian politics. It is a stage where the participants and audiences come to showcase and celebrate things like sexual orientation and gender identity, both of which are among the most frequently cited causes for discrimination in the dialect of a broader tolerance-based ideology inherent to cultural liberalism. The mistreated minorities have in a sense commandeered the attention from the singing-performances themselves, but from a strictly political point of view that is a more or less desirable outcome.

Due to a recent stirring of the balance of power on the North-American side of the Western world, the errand of heralding open-mindedness around the world has fallen increasingly on Europe alone. In this vein the Eurovision should also be perceived as one frontier of the counter-strike against the hidebound human rights’ recession enforced both within the Union and in its neighbourhood. The singing contest is at its finest precisely when it brings together every culture in their distinctive originalities.

Nationalism is unfortunately often written off as parochial favouring of one’s home country. That, anyhow, is only true as long as nationalism is restricted to patriotism. This jingoistic worldview incapable of telling apart a declaration of love and that of a war regarding the supposedly endeared homeland is not the only route nationalism has to offer. It is possible to appreciate nations categorically as well and not only when the country of the respective nationalist comes to question.

As long as all countries are handled equally, the Eurovision could function as a kind of seminar for the healthy type of nationalism described above, and simultaneously control its more noxious aspects. The singing contest ought to all the more act as an arena enabling individual cultures to self-actualize, in order to remind all the member states that this is also the purpose of the European Union and that the same sort of mutual acceptance is difficult for all the diverse countries to achieve on their on own without a supranational governing body.

I believe it is safe to assume that the character of the contest was somewhat altered courtesy of last year’s winner, Jamala of Ukraine. Even though the rules of the competition specifically deny political messages in song lyrics, the victory-piece conveyed an unmistakable critique of the Russian occupation of Crimea. Nonetheless, Jamala won the Eurovision of 2016. I for one greeted this shift towards political performances with the warmest of welcomes. It is never advisable to put up safe-spaces where politics is shut out entirely because no such thing as neutrality exists within the scope of civic activism. Politics is, in essence, like perspiration. Everytime we so much as break a sweat for the most diminutive deed, it gets secreted allover the place. What is more, now that democracy has fallen furthest from grace in living memory, there should be plenty of problems to make music about.

Grand folk festivals the likes of the Eurovision always bestow the opportunity to focus on the public grievances of the host country. In comparison, the major media managed to overlook the social problems in quite a spectacular fashion and got carried away with the partying mood in the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil to such an extent, that nothing has changed in the country since then. The Eurovision in Ukraine shall, in addition to broadcasting the spirit of candidness, allow us an opening to acknowledge an unjust act of war alongside the misery and hopelessness it has left at its wake as something more meaningful than a tedious bagatelle ruining the carnival atmosphere. Where the assertions of acceptance and tolerance fail, it is sometimes more emphatic to assemble with a rallying mentality. While there is definately a craving for love in Ukraine, a disapproval of the military takeover and a waspish championing of the Ukranian cause versus the Russian oppression would come in even more so handy.


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