Towards a Norm-critical Eurovision Song Contest

Frederik Jørgen Kornelius Bjørk Kaptain

Student thesis: Master thesis


The Eurovision Song Contest, or just Eurovision, emerged as a 1956 peace project aimed at bringing together a war-torn Europe. During the more than 60 years of competition, it has changed from being a small competition with quiet songs, to the world's largest, most extravagant, and most viewed song competition, and thus as a huge platform for political voices. In this thesis, I therefore seek to answer the question: How has Eurovision become an space of opportunity for norm-critical performances? and how is any space of opportunity attempted controlled by the European Broadcasting Union? To respond to this research question, it will first be analysed how Eurovision can be considered an affective event that, by virtue of being affective, opens an space of opportunity for norm-critical, or affective, performances. This analysis is based on Professor Sarah Ahmed's definition of affective events. Then, based on the French sociologist Michel Foucault, and his concept of genealogy, I will investigate how such a space of opportunity has historically been utilized, focusing on the performances that have been particularly normcritical. From these two analyses, I can conclude how how an space of opportunity for normcritical performances has emerged and has evolved. Here I can thus demonstrate the historical changes that have been made, from a kiss between Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler in 1957 being considered to be norm-breaking, to the bearded lady, Conchita Wurst, and her victory in 2014 was considered the norm for doing Eurovision. After this I will, in the final analyses, analyse how the European Broadcasting Union has historically tried to limit, or control, this space of opportunity. This is also done by using the genealogical level of analysis, in this analysis combined with Foucault's theories of technologies of self-management. Based on this analysis, I can conclude that the European Broadcasting Union has built up its set of rules as a combination of several technologies, where they can talk about the day-to-day responsibility of Eurovision as something that lies with the host country, while at the same time they can intervene directly if they see the need for this. Finally, I will conclude on how a space of potential for norm-critical performances in Eurovision has emerged as a combination of pressure from both European Broadcasting Union's wishes for how to “do Eurovision”, as well as what the juries are voting for to win Eurovision.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages79
SupervisorsJannick Friis Christensen