Solidarity as an answer to the crisis caused by the pandemic: actions and discourses

Head of research: Margit Feischmidt

Period: 2020-

Participants: Judit Durst, Márton Hunyadi, Zoltán Kmetty (ELU and SRC recent), Eszter Neumann, György Horváth, Attila Papp Z., Ildikó Zakariás, Csilla Zsigmond.

Partners: Domonkos Sík (ELU DSS), Violetta Zentai (CEU).

In line with previous researches regarding solidarity conducted by the Minority Studies Institute at Research Center for Social Sciences, our research has been initiated in order to find out what forms of solidarity and charity actions appear during the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We investigate how, and on what relationship-basis do such actions occur; what kind of institutions they embed in; and how they communicate. We also examine who is targeted by the initiators of these actions and also those whose cooperation they plan to rely on. We have a particular focus on the social categories that appear amongst those who are considered worthy (or possibly unworthy) of help, sympathy or support; and how these examined solidarity actions rank among the participants. We study the particular effects of health condition and age on these emerging categories, and also where social groups defined by poverty and economic disadvantages, ethnical- and migrant-minorities are placed in such categorization. The scope of this research expands into the question of whether new support-forms appear to help those who are living in extreme poverty, or the crisis results in the opposite effect, namely in the disappearance of the already existing support-forms. Even though the primary focus of the research is rural- and urban Hungary, through the work of our partner, a UK and a Romanian comparison also take place.

As a result of the current situation, the various forms of globalization, social questions regarding locality, and dynamics of trust and fear are being reconsidered. In the framework of this research, we investigate the possible connections between the dynamics of trust and that of the pandemic using secondary analysis of data provided by ESS and other national and international databases.

Just as in our previous researches, we also analyze the type of interpretive work and social discourses accompanying charity and solidarity action. We investigate what forms of community-values and ideologies emerge regarding the crisis' interpretation, subsistence on a personal and social level, also regarding the possible solutions to the crisis.

Our aim is also to understand how the solidarity actors' interpretation of the crisis fits into and affects the broader public. By using quantitative analysis of media contents, we study how the concept of solidarity changes over time; the dynamics of this modification; and the emergence of vying or clashing interpretations. In order to depict the themes solidarity embeds into and the political and social word-context it associates with, we analyze the above-mentioned media contents using quantitative methods. Besides helpers' perspectives, based on an online statistical survey we explore solidarity patterns also from the perspective of recipients of help.

Methodology: online ethnography, online survey, quantitative discourse-analysis, secondary analysis of ESS and other national and international data, interview


Studies presenting the results of our research have been published in the scientific quarterly REGIO. Minority Culture Politics Society in Hungarian, the titles are our translations:

  • Domonkos Sik, Ildikó Zakariás: Epidemic and Crisis - Need and Aid in the First Wave of COVID-19
  • Margit Feischmidt: Help and responsibility: forms, motivations and desired effects of social solidarity during the COVID-19 epidemic
  • Eszter Neumann: Social Solidarity and Home Education in the First Wave of the Coronavirus
  • Zentai Violetta: Solidarity Initiatives in the World of Economy and Work
  • Margit Feischmidt, Zsuzsanna Sütő: Civilians in the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the field of healt and social care
  • Judit Acsády, Csilla Zsigmond: The Dialectic of Solidarity and Emergency: Culture and Leisure in the First Wave of the Coronavirus Outbreak

Two papers have been prepared, presented at various conferences and are under review before journal publication:

  • Solidarity work during pandemic. Citizens and civil society initiatives in the first wave of COVID-19 in Hungary by Violetta Zentai and Margit Feischmidt
  • The Political Aspects of Solidarity Mobilizations in the Context of Shrinking Civil Society during the First Wave of COVID-19 by Margit Feischmidt and Eszter Neumann

How can we help in a health crisis? Online Roundtable at the Research Centre for Social Sciences on April 13, 2021

Participants of the roundtable discussion: Zoltán Bátyi (3D printing against the Coronavirus), Andrea Ficzere (Director General of Uzsoki Hospital, President of the Hungarian Hospital Association, Let's Get Together Association), András Molnár (Hungarian Red Cross), Judit Mária Tóth, Hungarian Medical Association ), Margit Feischmidt (Research Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for Minority Studies). The conversation is led by Ádám Kolozsi (Telex)

Press coverage of the project:

  • The solidarity of Hungarians with health care workers is changing along with the waves of the epidemic (Qubit, April 15, 2021).
  • How to help well in a health crisis? (Magyar Narancs, April 16, 2021)

Additional research reports:

  • Is the viral crisis increasing solidarity? (Civil Radio, April 21, 2021). Written version: Parola - Journal of Community and Social Development, 2021/2.