Diasporic return to Hungary from Latin America

Principal investigator: Nóra Kovács

Period: 2018 -

Research questions and objectives:

Research the thematic field of diasporic return migration focuses on two groups of phenomena.

The first concerns the social perception, reception and use of an alternative theory of Hungarian ethno-history (broadly speaking Sumerian-Hungarian ethnic relatedness) that returned to Hungary in a more detailed and elaborate form, as a consequence of diasporic return migration from Argentina. Connecting a particular case of diasporic return with a mainstream ethno-political shift in Hungary of the latest decade, this research aims to contribute to our understanding of the rebirth and popularity of an old-new alternative vision of ancient Hungarian ethno-history that challenges any kind of historical connectedness between Hungarian (and Hungarians) and Finno-Ugric languages (and peoples).

The second thematic area is the state assisted return migration and settlement programme of Venezuelans of Hungarian descent. Informal first contacts and preparations for fieldwork were made. Besides a large religious NGO, migrants’ integration was informally helped by several voluntary groups of solidarity. The pilot phase of this research project identified  a religion-based group of  helpers,  a social network established on the ground of shared Latino identities, a group of former diasporic returnees from Latin America, and also individuals who wished to counterbalance official anti-immigration  policies by informally mentoring migrants..

Using these two cases, this research project intends to compare and contrast the reception and use of these two flows of diasporic return migration from Latin America to Hungary. There was visible affinity between the values and cultural practices of the spontaneous diasporic return migration from Argentina and the Hungarian government’s ethno political ambitions at the turn of the millennium. Particular connection can drawn between the deliberate, systematic yet subtle dissemination of the subversive and academically questionable Hungarian ethno political world view developed by a self-made historian returnee from Argentina and the recent dramatic populist turn in official Hungarian cultural politics. The second migratory pattern has taken the form of a still ongoing, informally organised, state assisted yet highly unpublicized immigration program for Venezuelan migrants of Hungarian descent, filling up Hungary’s official European quota of refugees to be received.

Research history:

The study had as its starting point a previous piece of anthropological research on second generation Hungarian diaspora identity carried out in Argentina at the turn of the millennium. It was in Buenos Aires where the libraries of Hungarian diaspora associations displayed a formidable amount of print publications written and published by Francisco Badiny Jós on ancient Hungarian prehistory in Hungarian-language books and journals printed in Argentina and the US during the cold war period. Badiny made a formidable effort to construct an alternative to the officially canonized Hungarian ethno-history. Taking up a 19th century line of thought (see Ablonczy 2018, Romsics 2014) he, simply put, related Hungarians to ancient Sumerians. (This is a complex issue where clear distinctions need to be   but in Badiny’s work are not   made between linguistic, cultural and genetic relatedness, or historical intergroup contact.) The bulk of Badiny’s written work was produced during his years in Argentina; however, only after his return migration to Hungary did his ideas start to draw attention and flourish in his original homeland. It has been extensively studied worldwide how ethnic diasporas may interact with societies of their countries of origin and how they may influence the course of events there. Several of the ethnic diaspora groups of the formerly communist states of East and Central Europe have impacted on fundamental aspects of the post-socialist transition process or inspired specific political groups by qualities associated with diaspora ethnic identity.The previous research explored  Badiny’s life and work trajectory, diasporic existence and return migration. A the same time it traced the path and the complex process of the influence he exerted in Hungary on increasingly mainstream visions of fundamental principle related to the Hungarian ethnic group. It attempted to unravel the ambitions of political actors in Hungary to disseminate the ideas developed by Francisco Badiny and to employ them in the service of their political goals.

Research methods:

The first thematic part of the research applies a biographic case study method. The special attention on his particular case is justified by the volume of his impact, and the profound ideological and political transformations his work contributed to. The project is based on the analysis and interpretation of data from a combination of sources that help map out the professional and social trajectory of Ferenc Badiny and that of his life work. A substantial part of information sources are accessible on the internet. Several parts of his written work can be read online or downloaded from the internet, and several hours of his video recorded public lectures are shared on YouTube. terviews were made with former students and acquaintances of Badiny’s from the Hungarian diaspora in Buenos Aires. Field experiences and findings of a previous project on second generation Hungarian identity in Argentina provided context to Badiny’s project in Argentina. Virtual fieldwork focusing on computer mediated communication related to the dissemination and reception of his ideas in Hungarian as well as Argentinean virtual space is conducted.

The study of assisted migration programme is carried out with the help of qualitative anthropological methods, participant observation among migrants and voluntary help groups, interviews, as well as online fieldwork and the analysis of the media coverage of the programme.

Research results in 2019:

A review of relevant international literature and an analysis of online content were followed by the preparation of an English language journal article manuscript on the Badiny’s  ethnohistorical project, its reception and dissemination.

Informal contacts were made with Venezuelan families of HUngarian origin, and fieldwork preparations were made.

Publications, conference papers:

A diaszpóra visszavándorlásának ideológiai vonatkozásai Közép-Kelet Európában: Badiny Jós Ferenc Magyarországon. NÉPRAJZI LÁTÓHATÁR: A GYÖRFFY ISTVÁN NÉPRAJZI EGYESŰLET FOLYÓIRATA XVI : 1-4 pp. 284-304. (2017) 

Is Jesus Hungarian? Ideological aspects of ethnic return migration in East Central Europe: Francisco Badiny Jós’s work trajectory in Hungary in the post-socialist era. Paper presented at the 23rd Annual ASN World Convention 03-05 May 2018 Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York