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Towards a sociology of recurrent events: Constellations of cultural change around Eurovision in 18 countries (1981–2021)

In this article, Thijs van Dooremalen, Luca Carbone, Jonathan Mijs, and Stijn Daenekindt explore the concept of recurrent events, particularly focusing on the Eurovision Song Contest.

Thijs van Dooremalen, Luca Carbone, Jonathan Mijs & Stijn Daenekindt
03 June 2024
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The authors aim to address the shortcomings of traditional sociological literature, which often conceptualises events as unexpected happenings that bring about significant transformations in social structures. By introducing the concept of recurring events - defined as events that occur with regular and predictable cadence and generate collective anticipation and vibrancy - the authors seek to demonstrate how these events contribute to cultural change. Using a unique dataset of Eurovision lyrics and public attitudes in 18 European countries from 1981 to 2021, they explore the relationship between narratives presented at Eurovision and broader societal attitudes, particularly in relation to sexual and gender identity and national identity. 

The main findings of the article indicate the presence of six different constellations of cultural change around the Eurovision Song Contest. These constellations include diverging, stable, fully converging, partially converging (leading), leading, and trailing. The study reveals that Eurovision narratives and public attitudes towards sexual and gender identity and national identity often interact in complex ways, showing varying degrees of alignment and divergence over time. By applying resonance theory, the authors highlight the importance of considering mediated recurrent events as distinct from unexpected events, emphasising their role in cultural change and the alignment of social beliefs with event narratives.

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