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Accepted Paper:

Eurovision Song Contest in a state at war: Soft power and the Ukraine-Russia conflict  
Per Ståhlberg (Södertörn University)

Paper short abstract:

When ESC 2017 was arranged in Kyiv, Ukraine was faced with the dilemma of hosting a mega event of entertainment while simultaneously being engaged in an information war with Russia. The case reveals a number of contradictions between the apparently related concepts of "soft power" and "propaganda".

Paper long abstract:

It is not new that one of the world's largest event of "light" TV-entertainment, Eurovision Song Contest, has political dimensions. But rarely has political connotations been as manifest as when Ukraine hosted the event in Kyiv during the first two weeks of May 2017. For the first time Eurovision was arranged in a state at war, both in the sense of a military conflict in the eastern parts of the country and in an information war between Ukraine and Russia. The topic of this presentation is to discuss how the host organizers and various other actors dealt with the dilemma of arranging an event that had to offer uncontroversial entertainment (conforming to European Broadcasting Union regulations) for an international audience, while at the same time being connected with an ongoing conflict and political disputes. Usually, Eurovision is an opportunity for the host country to present an attractive image of itself to a global audience. This time, it was hardly obvious how the event best could be utilized in the global "attention economy". In this presentation, building on intermittent fieldwork during 2016 -17, I will discuss concrete incidents happening during the planning and execution of the event as well as considerations around the design of slogans and symbols. The case of Eurovision in Kyiv 2017 reveals a number of contradictions between the apparently related concepts of "soft power" and "propaganda".

Panel P134
What is soft about soft power? Critical engagements with an emerging form of statecraft
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -