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Accepted Paper:

has film When there is no "outside": The authoritarian right as the context of ethnographic research in Hungary  


Annastiina Kallius (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on recent fieldwork in Budapest, Hungary, this paper asks what happens when the a hegemonic authoritarian right-wing regime becomes the all-encompassing context of ethnographic fieldwork, and what does that mean for the anthropological conceptualizations of 'the new right'.

Paper long abstract:

This paper argues that the task to anthropologically conceptualize right-wing, authoritarian and/or neonationalist movements in Europe begins with thinking of different conditions of ethnographic fieldwork.

In Hungary, authoritarian right has become the defining context of research. During the 2010s, the ruling party Fidesz has cemented hegemonic rule by centralization of economy, overhaul of democratic institutions, and transformation of political language. While in public communication the regime is hostile towards the European Union, it also positions itself as a safeguard of "true" European values that guide the continent into the 21st century: Christianity, nation-states, and marriage.

While Hungary has become a symbol for rightwing movements across Europe, domestically Fidesz' reforms permeate all sections of the society. Put bluntly: regardless of one's actual ethnographic focus, one will have to deal with Fidesz. In this paper, I draw on my doctoral fieldwork among different generations of liberal intelligentsia in Budapest (2017-2018) and ethnographically show how my interlocutors' lives became increasingly defined by the regime in terms of family relations, work, and sense of personal security.

Although ethnographers' access to the actual institutions run by Fidesz can be restricted for multiple reasons, anthropologists in Hungary will also study the authoritarian right by proxy. Moreover, ethnographers themselves necessarily become entangled in related acute moral and political questions. When there exists no "outside" of the regime, what does it mean to ethnographically study the authoritarian right? And most importantly, what consequences do such conditions of ethnographic fieldwork bear towards anthropological conceptualizations of right wing movements?

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Panel P131
Getting 'the Right' right: Comparative ethnographies of neo-nationalist movements in Europe