Zoë Jay’s interest in the Eurovision Song Contest dates back to her studies at the University of Tasmania, where she studied international relations. Through her studies, she met Eurovision academic Ben Wellings, who was working on a book about Eurovision. Jay ended up writing an article with Wellings about Great Britain and its skepticism towards the Contest.
In the autumn of 2023, Jay’s postdoctoral research project on Eurovision will begin. The project is titled “The Eurovisionaries: How Fan Diplomats are Making Europe” and is funded by the Kone Foundation. In Eurovisionaries Jay “challenges conventional understandings of soft power and cultural diplomacy that portray audiences as passive recipients of content”. The research project explores the language, symbols, gestures and practices of Eurovision fans and analyzes those practices as a form of vernacular and participatory diplomacy.
For a long time, the Contest was frowned upon. Countries usually sent B-level artists to compete and in general, the competition was considered a bit embarrassing, Jay says. The turning point in public opinion regarding the Contest was the year 2012, Jay adds, when the Swedish artist Loreen overwhelmingly won the competition. Taking part in the Contest suddenly became something desired among artists.
The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual event watched by almost 200 million viewers. It could be compared to the Olympics or the World Cup of football, Jay states. The Contest should not be overlooked as a research subject. On the contrary, fans of Eurovision could be seen as practicing and producing cultural diplomacy across borders.