“We are Europeans, but if someone wants a little Asia…”
Debates about Budapest as a National and Cosmopolitan City in the 1890s
In my presentation I will introduce two Turkish theme parks from the Hungarian Millennium Exhibition of 1896 and show what role these parks played in attempts to re-negotiate Budapest’s rank among European cities. Scholars share a general consensus that nineteenth century world’s fairs and spectacles like Oriental townscapes re-enforced colonial narratives and were tied to the Western experience of colonialism. But what did these narrative structures mean in East-Central Europe? I argue that although exhibits of the non-European were limited in scope, these contributed to conceptualizations of modernity and Westernness by bringing into the forefront questions such as the relationship of cosmopolitanism and national culture. Symbols of Hungarian national identity – which were inspired by a romanticized rural and folk culture – were heavily criticized by pro-Western intellectuals and politicians, who argued that the visibility of peasant culture directed attention to the lack of proper urbanization and modernization in Hungary. It was a kind of exoticism that positioned Hungary as a periphery of the West. In their view images of the secondary Orient (that is images of Eastern Europe and peasant culture: e.g. the czardas, the cult of the Great Hungarian Plain, and even Gypsy bands) were to be replaced by the exhibit of the real Orient in the urban context. Thus the two Turkish theme parks opened up a space for Hungarians to become consumers of the Orient and to renegotiate Hungary’s symbolic geographical belonging.
Zsuzsanna Varga is a PhD candidate in Comparative Gender Studies at the Central European University in Budapest. Currently she is a CEU Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
Language as an Instrument of Ethnicity (re-)Production in the Context of the Islamic Revival in Tatarstan
Tatarstan has the image of being the Northern outpost of Islam inside the Russian Federation. Islamic culture is visibly present in public spaces and there is a well-developed Islamic infrastructure. Although most of the population does not practice Islam, recent surveys show that the number of “genuine” believers is growing. Meanwhile, ethnicity has also become increasingly important in recent years. The Tatar language and ethnic crafts, popular music and television broadcasting in Tatar now feature prominently in the republic’s everyday life. These developments raise the question of the interrelation between religious (Muslim) practices and the Tatar language. To explore these interrelations, I use an approach which considers ethnicity as a process and a set of practices, not as a constant unchangeable identity. I argue that it is the Islamic renaissance that has led to the revitalization of the Tatar language. My presentation thus highlights the various ways in which this ethnic minority language plays an important role both in the reproduction of ethnicity and in Tatar Islam.
Guzel Yusupova holds a PhD in Sociology from European University at Saint-Petersburg and is a lecturer at Kazan Federal University. She is also a Research Fellow at the Institute for Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Currently she is a Alexander Herzen Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.