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CREES Noon Lecture. “The Symbolic Economies of Postsocialist Nationalism in Hungary.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

The presentation explores the intersections between markets and new forms of nationalism in contemporary Hungary by looking at the manufacturing, sale, and consumption of radical nationalist commodities and services. It argues that the increasing right-wing radicalization of Hungarian politics and the growth of “uncivil” publics have been fueled by an expanding industry that effectively commodifies these sentiments. The analysis focuses on four key areas of radical nationalist cultural production: book publishers that specialize in printing and disseminating nationalist literature; heritage tourism to neighboring countries (especially to Transylvania, Romania) that aims to build bridges to diaspora Hungarians and sustain the idea of a Greater (pre-1918) Hungary; national rock bands that have codified a new, economically successful genre of political popular music; and clothing brands that market explicitly nationalist fashion items. By tracing the symbolic economies of new forms of radical nationalism, I highlight an important dimension of everyday nationalism. This analytical lens helps to demonstrate that contemporary right-wing radicalism is not a codified political ideology but a more fluid subculture in which expressive symbols, material objects, rituals, everyday consumption and lifestyle patterns are essential carriers of political convictions and markers of group boundaries. These symbolic economies also contribute to reconfiguring the boundaries between politics and the public sphere allowing radical nationalist discourse to penetrate mainstream political discourse.

Virág Molnár received her Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and is currently associate professor of sociology at the New School for Social Research. Her research explores the intersections of culture, politics, social change and expert knowledge with special focus on urban and political subcultures and the symbolic politics of the built environment. She has written about the relationship between architecture and state formation in socialist and postsocialist Eastern Europe, the post-1989 reconstruction of Berlin, and the new housing landscape of postsocialist cities. Her first book, Building the State: Architecture, Politics and State Formation in Postwar Central Europe, received the 2014 Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book in the Sociology of Culture from the American Sociological Association.

Part of the CREES-sponsored series, Buying and Selling, States and Markets, which focuses on various aspects of economies in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. How did socialist regimes theorize money, consumption, wages, and pricing? How did markets during state socialism actually work, and what is their legacy in contemporary times? What are the social roles of commodities and economic transactions today?

Sponsors: CREES, CES

Virág Molnár, associate professor of sociology, The New School for Social Research