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History of Anthropologies, Ethnologies and Ethnographies in Hungary, 17th‑20th Centuries: A Historical Overview

Ildikó Sz. Kristóf

HUN-REN BTK Néprajztudományi Intézet (HUN-REN RCH Institute of Ethnology) / Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

Avec la contribution de Borbála Mészáros et Éva Mikos

2024
Pour citer cet article

Sz. Kristóf, Ildikó, 2024. “History of Anthropologies, Ethnologies and Ethnographies in Hungary, 17th‑20th Centuries: A Historical Overview”, in Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie, Paris.

URL Bérose : article3359.html

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Publié dans le cadre du thème de recherche « Histoire des anthropologies, ethnologies et ethnographies en Hongrie, XVII-XXe siècles », dirigé par Ildikó Sz. Kristóf (HUN-REN BTK Néprajztudományi Intézet (HUN-REN RCH, Institut d’Ethnologie) / Magyar Tudományos Akadémia, Académie hongroise des sciences)

Résumé : Cet aperçu historique souligne combien le discours et, plus tard, la science de l’anthropologie en Hongrie, sont anciens et protéiformes. Ce discours est repérable dans plusieurs religions (réparties spatialement dans des régions distinctes et dotées de leur histoire propre), tant dans la tradition catholique (surtout jésuite) que protestante (luthérienne et calviniste), et plus nettement encore à partir de la seconde moitié du XVIIe siècle. Avant cette date, l’article fait état du rôle déjà prépondérant des missionnaires catholiques et des traducteurs protestants, des étudiants dans les universités allemandes, dans l’étude de l’altérité culturelle extra-européenne. La nature et le contenu du discours anthropologique ont toujours été influencés par des facteurs politiques locaux, mais aussi par des courants intellectuels extérieurs : dépendance à l’égard de l’empire turc jusqu’à la fin du XVIIe siècle, puis à l’égard de l’empire autrichien des Habsbourg jusqu’à la fin de la Première Guerre mondiale, suivie de l’influence des modèles allemand, puis russe/soviétique et, plus tard encore, ouest-européen et américain. Le statut social de ceux qui cultivent le discours et la science anthropologique a changé au fil des siècles. Leur sécularisation intervient au cours des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles. A l’heure actuelle, les représentants religieux réapparaissent sur la scène. Leur position sociologique reflète également leurs relations avec les traditions locales et les influences étrangères, ce qui, à son tour, se répercute dans la nature du savoir anthropologique construit. Par-delà les vicissitudes historiques, perdure une caractéristique structurelle : la préoccupation pour les savoirs locaux, la volonté de les approcher au plus près, dans leurs propres termes, couplées à une quête identitaire dans et à travers les différents éléments de la culture.

The Earliest Period (1650–1830) : Jesuits and Protestants

After an early period of missionary ethnography and church-oriented reflections centred around the Jesuit University of Trnava/Nagyszombat (north-western Hungary, today Slovakia), the emergence of a global ethnography and anthropology seems to have been embedded in the cultural programme of the Enlightenment in Hungary, just as in other Western European countries. [1] Until 1699, the central part of Hungary was occupied by the Ottoman Tukish Empire, its northern part belonging to the Habsburg empire, and its eastern part, the Transylvanian Principality, enjoying more or less freedom. After 1699, however, the whole country came under the Habsburg empire, a situation which lasted formally until 1867, when the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy came into being. The latter was a multi-national constitutional monarchy that lasted until 1918. Any initiative that can be called ethnographical or anthropological appeared and was filtered through and affected by these cultural and political formations. Those initiatives also seem to have been related to the discourses of the so-called useful literature – travelogues, accounts of non-European discoveries, geographies, natural histories, etc., as was the case elsewhere. Global ethnography and anthropology in Hungary was also impacted by early Western European anthropological tradition(s) and seems to have been infiltrated by a number of major historical-philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment, especially by the concepts of antiquarianism, linearity and stadiality (Sz. Kristóf 2019). There is, however, an earlier period that should be taken into consideration as well. During the 17th and the early 18th centuries, global ethnography and the representation of non-European indigenous peoples appeared in three sociocultural contexts in the Kingdom of Hungary, whose respective local agents applied rather different strategies of representation.

1) Jesuit scholars and missionaries in the 17th century. Jesuit missionaries educated in Nagyszombat/Trnava supported the Habsburg governments in Vienna in general, but they had their own independent interests as a powerful denomination and an organized (Austrian) province. Founded in 1635, the Jesuit academy of Trnava relied on its almanacs to publicize the overseas activity of their missionaries – mostly in the Americas and Asia – and the geographical and ethnographic knowledge emerging from it. Several 16th and 17th century Spanish and Italian authors whose works were accessible in Hungary provided various demonical or diabolized descriptions of the Native Americans. Thereby, they seem to have set an example for the local Catholic missionaries trained in the academy of Nagyszombat/Trnava. According to the theological concepts that provided the basis for representing non-European otherness, Central and North American natives were depicted as demon-adoring heathens, or, as homines sylvestres (wild forest people), a classical Greco-Roman archetype of people held to be “savage”. The Trnava Jesuits made the earliest context for the emergence of global ethnographical and anthropological ideas in the ancient Kingdom of Hungary. Francis Éder Xavér SJ (1727–1772) is the best known of the Jesuit missionaries who worked in South America – in his case, among the Moxos in Bolivia. But there were many others (Boglár 1952 ; Boglár-Bodnár 1975 ; Sz. Kristóf 2012a ; 2012b ; 2014a).

2) Protestant scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries. Another context for the cultivation of global ethnography and anthropology, and/or the reception of such ideas from Western European countries was formed by Hungarian/“Hungarus” Protestant scholars. By profession, a number of them were naturalists : physicians, geographers, scholars and teachers of natural history, and the like. Lutheran scholars gathered together in towns in the north of the Hungarian kingdom. During the 1810s, they centred around a knowledgeable superintendent called János Kiss (1770–1846) and produced geography books with a wider scope. Collections, translations, and compilations of foreign geographical works containing ethnographical descriptions appeared. It was especially Protestant (mostly Lutheran) scholars who became acquainted with Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) during the 1790s–1810s. They started to study his early works and were profoundly influenced by his natural history (Sz. Kristóf 2013 ; 2014b ; 2018 ; 2021b).

In contrast with the Jesuits, the Hungarian Protestants did not do as much missionary work in this period. Instead, they carried out an enormous work of translation which was essential for the spread of ethnographical and anthropological concepts. They translated several Western European travelogues into vernacular Hungarian, including, among others, the works of French and British travellers like James Cook (1728–1779), Jean-François de La Pérouse (1741–1788), or, for that matter, George Macartney (1737–1806), the Irish ambassador of Great Britain to China (Sz. Kristóf 2019 ; 2021a ; 2022b). In this period, there were at least four Hungarian translations of James Cook’s Voyages, three of them by Protestant authors (Sz. Kristóf 2022a).

This was, however, like armchair anthropology. For example, towards the end of the period Pál Almási Balogh (1794–1867), a Hungarian Calvinist physician who occupied a high position in society, compiled a general ethnographic description of the Australian Aborigines (before 1835) without ever physically entering Australia. He relied on the text and the images he found in various contemporary French and English travelogues about Australia that he had in his private library. He appropriated the colonial representations inscribed in those works making practically no objections or adding any original reflections (Sz. Kristóf 2014b).

3) Protestant (Lutheran and Calvinist) preachers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Overlapping with the previous context, the third one corresponds to the extensive work of translation from foreign languages into Hungarian that was cultivated by a significant number of preachers. One of the most important was the Reverend Mihály Dobosy (1780–1853), a student at the University of Göttingen, who translated a general description of Greenland Inuit made by David Cranz (1723–1777), a Moravian (Herrnhuter) missionary to Greenland. The work of Cranz from the early 1760s made a kind of idealized, exoticized depiction of the Inuit as innocent children of nature. The Hungarian adaptation published in 1810 kept that aspect very well preserved (Sz. Kristóf 2021a).

For the earliest period in general, some of the major trends in Western colonial representation and interpretation of cultural otherness are also identifiable in Hungarian literature. There are various forms of exoticization of those “distant Others”, from demonization and animalization to hierarchization and barbarization. Such representations crossed the boundaries between “central” and “peripheral” anthropological traditions : they were mediated to Hungary by means of textual and visual adaptations of early geographical and ethnographic works.

A particularly important political aspect of the rise of world ethnography and anthropology in the Kingdom of Hungary was a strong Germanophile – and anti-Habsburg/anti-Austrian – attitude. Though this was missing in the case of the Jesuits, it was one of the most remarkable features of the Protestant perspective. The above-mentioned translations were made frequently from German texts or from the German versions of British, French, and other texts. This applies to most of the accounts of James Cook’s travels that appeared in Hungary, for example. The very idea of translating possibly originated in one or another of the German universities – primarily Göttingen, but also Jena and Halle (see Bödeker, Büttgen, Espagne 2008) attended by Protestant Hungarian students. This was knowingly the case of the Hungarian translation of Cranz’s ethnography of Greenland. Translating and adapting anthropologically relevant Western European books had political implications, as this scholarly task was embedded in local struggles. In fact, it constituted a subversion if not a scientific revolt against Habsburg science as both imperial and Catholic, or absolutist and also partly Jesuit science. This kind of intellectual rebellion was implied in the cultural programme of the Hungarian national awakening movement (1825–1848), the principal aim of which was to create a specifically Hungarian science, both institutionally and linguistically. The translators and compilers in question intended to create vernacular scientific discourses by means of Protestant patterns, particularly with their origins in German universities. This is an essential feature of the rise of ethnology and anthropology in the Kingdom of Hungary during the late 18th and the early 19th century centuries (Sz. Kristóf 2011 ; 2013 ; 2019).

From the Institutionalisation of Ethnography/Ethnology to the First World War (1825–1914)

The Hungarian Humboldists

The foundation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences – in its initial form, a society of scholars and educated noblemen – took place in 1825. Well into the 1870s, the geography of Alexander von Humboldt seems to have exerted the strongest influence on the sciences of ethnology and anthropology. Humboldt knew a great deal about Hungary, its geography, its language and, to a certain extent, its history ; he had personal connections and acquaintances in Hungarian aristocratic and scientific circles, and made trips to Hungary in 1797 and 1811. Members of the Lutheran Podmaniczky family – József Podmaniczky (1756–1823), and perhaps also Károly Podmaniczky (1772–1833) – as well as other Protestant scientists were his guides in Hungary – this was probably the case of Pál Almási Balogh (1794–1867). Apart from the names of places, a number of family names of contemporary Hungarian aristocrats and scholars are mentioned in Humboldt’s works. Among the scholars, one finds the mapmaker János Lipszky (1766–1826), the orientalist Sándor Körösi Csoma (1784–1842), or the Zipser-Austrian historian Johann Christian Engel (1770–1814). Humboldt also appreciated the research of contemporary linguist-ethnographers, like Sámuel Gyarmathi (1751–1830) and Antal Reguly (1819–1858), who worked on Finno-Ugric comparisons. With their considerable audience in Hungarian scholarship in general (especially in natural history), the works of Humboldt exercised a great impact upon the emergence of geography and world ethnology. A certain kind of heroic aura of scientific and political idealization already surrounded Humboldt in Hungary during his lifetime. The closest contacts he had throughout his long life came from increasingly cosmopolitan Protestant and reformist circles.

Those circles stood in opposition to the Habsburg government and sought for an independent Hungarian – political and cultural – identity. They were linguists, astronomers, surgeons, and also geologists and ethnographers ; many of them were aristocrats and some also politicians (Sz. Kristóf 2018 ; 2021b ; 2021c).

Upon Humboldt’s death in 1859, the memorial speech at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was delivered by Pál Almási Balogh (1794–1867), the chief surgeon of no less than Count István Széchenyi (1791–1860) and Governor Lajos Kossuth (1802–1894), political leaders of Hungary in the period of the so-called National Awakening (1820s–1848) in Hungary. Almási Balogh was himself an admirer of Humboldt, who had been elected honorary member of the academy in the same year, shortly before Humboldt’s death. The circle of the Humboldtists is especially important for the history of sociocultural anthropology, since it was the same circle – meaning the same families, friends, and acquaintances – that contributed to the rise of both geography and ethnology as institutionalized sciences in Hungary. Geography, including world ethnography (egyetemes néprajz), was institutionalized in Hungary with the nomination of its first university lecturer, the geographer János Hunfalvy (1820–1888), himself a Protestant (Lutheran), in the 1870s. Domestic ethnography (néprajz) was institutionalized under his older brother, the Finno-Ugrist linguist-ethnographer Pál Hunfalvy (1810–1891) (Sz. Kristóf 2021b ; 2021c).

The institutionalization of domestic ethnography, however, took place somewhat later. The Hungarian Ethnographic Society (Magyar Néprajzi Társaság) was founded in Budapest in 1889, based on the model of the Folklore Society of Britain, established a decade before, in 1878. Its main task was the collection and study of Hungarian oral traditions. In 1890, the society’s journal, entitled Ethnographia, was launched (it still exists, functioning as the main journal of ethnography in Hungary). It was in 1906 that Zsigmond Bátky (1874–1939) published a general guide for ethnographic collection, entitled Útmutató néprajzi múzeumok szervezésére [A guide to organise ethnographic museums] (Bátky 1906).

As for the research orientations resulting from the impact of Humboldt’s work in Hungary, the following four can be identified during the 19th century : an inclination towards antiquarian ethnography, that is, a past-oriented approach that resulted in an explicit search for the history and origins of objects and texts ; a combination of geographical and statistical social descriptions corresponding to the French concept of géographie humaine, or human geography ; an evolutionary cultural ecology, i.e., a pre-Darwinian form of comparing and categorizing the peoples of the world and their history ; and also an original form of Romantic Gesamtforschung, namely holistic research that was Humboldt’s own creation.

It should be highlighted that the Hungarian Humboldtists made use of all four approaches against their political adversary, Habsburg imperial science. Both before and after the failed revolution of 1848–1849, the scientific choices and orientations of the age intertwined with issues of cultural and political identity in 19th-century Hungary as a kingdom that was politically part of the Austrian empire.

One of the most devout Hungarian Humboldtists was Pál Rosti (1830–1874), a Catholic nobleman, traveller and photographer. Seeing Alexander von Humboldt as a model for life and as a professional, he followed in his footsteps by travelling to Central and South America between 1856 and 1859, and he cited him several times in his travelogue entitled Uti emlékezetek Amerikából [Travel memories from America], published in Pest in 1861. In 1859, just before Humboldt’s death, Rosti dedicated one of his photo albums to his hero. By the time Rosti was a young student, Humboldt’s early work was already known in Hungary. Despite being a Catholic, Rosti belonged to the reformist, cosmopolitan, anti-Habsburg circles. He took part in the revolution of 1848–1849, and after its failure he left the country for Paris, where he learned the new art of photography. The regular series of conferences held by the Versammlung Deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte (Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians), established in 1822 also then constituted a means by which Hungarian scholars could connect to international science. Several Hungarian scholars attended the society’s conference held in Breslau (Wrocław) in 1833, and those involved in geography, medicine and mineralogy had the opportunity to meet Humboldt personally. Among them were the Baron Antal Radvánszky (1807–1882), András Keresztély Zipser (1783–1864), and Ferenc Kubinyi (1796–1874), all active in the natural sciences. They seem to have brought Humboldt’s pre-Darwinian perspectives on nature and human society home with them (Sz. Kristóf 2018 ; 2021b ; 2021c ; Fisli-Lengyel 2021).

A Burning Issue : The Finno-Ugric vs Turkic Debate

One of the most momentous questions of the age was the linguistic and ethnic origin of the Hungarians. The argumentation of the so-called “Finno-Ugric vs Turkic debate” (1860s–1880s) drew greatly, however, on the philological assumptions and stereotypical representations of the peoples concerned that circulated in geography books at the turn of the 19th century. Regarding the origin of the Hungarian language and its relatives, the anti-Ugric party, represented by scholars like the Turkologist Ármin Vámbéry (1832–1913), expressed its dislike for and even contempt of the Finno-Ugric languages with ideas similar to those implied in the earlier and “uglifying” representation of Polar peoples. Finno-Ugric linguists like József Budenz (1836–1892) and ethnographers like Pál Hunfalvy (1810–1891) defended the Finno-Ugric (Sámi, etc.) people against the charges of the Turkish party, according to which Finno-Ugric people were dirty, “stank”, and “smelled like fish”. The debate broadened into public discourse towards the end of the 19th century. The way of life of the Finno-Ugric peoples was represented as miserable and despicable by the pro-Turkic party, and it was contrasted with that of the Turkic peoples, which was held to be more “noble” or “better developed”. The possibility of a linguistic and ethnic kinship with the latter was glorified, while that with the Finno-Ugric peoples was deemed to be rather shameful by the pro-Turkic scholars and noblemen in Hungary.

The debate sometimes took on denominational and cultural dimensions, too. The possibility of kinship between the Hungarian and Sámi languages was considered all the more pitiable and contemptible by the Protestant protagonists because the idea was originally proposed in 1770 by János Sajnovics (1733–1785), a Jesuit scholar. Sajnovics joined Maximilian Hell SJ (1720–1792), royal astronomer to the Habsburg court, on his journey to the Arctic region of Norway (Vardø) in 1769. It also was a factor in the later debate that the chief protagonists of the Ugric-Hungarian kinship – Budenz and Hunfalvy – were Lutherans and of German origin (Sz. Kristóf 2021d ; Pusztay 1977).

The Quest for Hungarian Origins. Scientific Expeditions and Ethnographic Collections

In line with the search for the origin of the Hungarians, expeditions were carried out to Siberia. In 1843–46, Antal Reguly (1819–1858) visited Western Siberia – which was already inhabited by Finno-Ugrian groups – in order to prove their kinship with the Hungarians (Ruttkay-Miklián 2009, 2018 ; Gulyás 2019). The Hungarian Academy of Sciences commissioned Bernát Munkácsi (1860–1937) to decipher Reguly’s Mansi (Vogul) collection. Munkácsi asked Károly Pápai (1861–1893), a scholar well-versed in anthropological and ethnographic studies, to accompany him on another expedition to Siberian Finno-Ugric areas. The expedition lasted sixteen months in 1888–89. Munkácsi spent most of his time among the Mansi (Vogul), but he also carried out field research among the Khanty (Ostyak) people. Pápai toured practically all the areas where Mansi and Khanty lived, but he pursued research among the Selkups and the Komi people as well (Mészáros et al. 2017).

Two of the earliest Hungarian travellers to broader Asia were the noblemen József Zichy (1841–1924) and his younger brother Ágost Zichy (1852–1925). After navigating through the Dutch East Indies and Japan, they crossed Mongolia and Southern Russia from east to west on their way back. During their trip, which took place in 1876–1877, József kept a private diary. His brother, Ágost, who later became member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, published two travelogues about the trip. József was less interested in finding the ancient homeland of the Hungarians or their relatives, and focused especially on economic questions (Mészáros et al. 2017). A member of the third expedition of the Zichy’s was János Jankó (1868–1902), a geographer and ethnographer who gathered a great number of objects and artefacts (and also crania) during his field trip among the Khanty (Ostyak) in 1897–1898. After János Xántus, he became the second director of the Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum) in Budapest in 1894 (Nagy 2021).

In 1868–1870, the Austro-Hungarian East Asian expedition encompassed many of the controversies of the Austro-Hungarian political reconciliation (1867). The story of the expedition is also the story of the pioneering natural history and ethnographic collections of János Xántus (1825–1895), and their organisation into a museum department and later, a museum. Xántus’s journeys and expeditions through North and Central America (1852–1864), then through Southeast Asia and Indonesia (1868–1870), led to the foundation of the Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum) itself in 1872 (Gyarmati 2020). [2] Without thorough knowledge of Xántus’s stay and early collecting activities in America after the failure of the revolution and Hungary’s loss of the War of Independence to Austria in 1848/49, it is not possible to understand his later journey to East Asia and its scientific outcome, which took place immediately after the Austro-Hungarian political reconciliation of 1867. Xántus’s participation in the East Asian expedition was made possible by József Eötvös (1813–1871), minister of religion and public education and president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1869–1872), with the support of Ferenc Pulszky (1814–1897), director general of the National Museum (Nemzeti Múzeum) in Budapest. They did the most to institutionalise the science of ethnography, both in the domestic and global sense. It is also worth mentioning that through Xántus, contemporary Hungarian scholarship was also brought into contact with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, USA (Gyarmati 2020 ; Sz. Kristóf 2022d).

In Xántus’s time, the Hungarian term népisme (knowledge about the folk) did not primarily mean “ethnography”, but was a mixture of craftsmanship and ethnography. In this sense, objects of daily use – especially those of the indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of the Americas or Australia – were rather underestimated and considered less worthy of museum preservation, while the ornate objects of the “great” Asian cultures were appreciated (those of China, Japan, Indonesia, etc.). Such objects could be bought in shops or from local gentry, and they were of much greater interest to museologists. This situation began to change in the second half of the century, both abroad and in Hungary. During János Xántus’ stay in Fort Tejon, Texas (1857–1858), he already collected Californian Indian bows and arrows for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. And in Hungary, the collection of “folk art” objects and information could also be added to the natural history collections (Gyarmati 2020).

Including Xántus’s activities, the second half of the 19th century was the era of the birth of specialised museology, when it broke away from the earlier, so-called Wunderkammer tradition, when ethnographic/ethnological interest emerged from the natural scientific milieu, while retaining and carrying forward its evolutionary embeddedness. From the point of view of collection and museological history, Xántus’ American period represented a “heroic age”, and his participation in the Austro-Hungarian expedition and the 155 000 “objects” he sent home helped to establish the self-sufficiency of the Hungarian museums, the Museum of Ethnography as well as the Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum). At the same time, Xántus’s role as an early ethnographic collector is highly controversial. He had to take the lives of living creatures in order to do animal taxidermy, and he had to take the living animals he sent home (for example to the Budapest Zoo) out of their natural habitat. In some cases, mainly during his travels in East Asia, Xántus also sent human remains, mainly skulls, to Hungary, although they were certainly not the focus of his collecting activities (Sz. Kristóf 2022d).

The same is true of the contemporary archaeologist and naturalist Sándor Fenichel (1868–1893) and entomologist Lajos Bíró (1856–1931), who both did fieldwork in German Papua New Guinea in the 1890s (Fenichel between 1891 and 1893 ; Bíró between 1896 and 1902). Alongside their zoological collections, they also took human skulls and shipped them home to Budapest, despite the fact that this was not the focus of their main collecting activity in the field. Their ethnographic work has recently begun to be explored in more detail by scholars working on the history of Hungarian anthropology (Vargyas 1991, 2016 ; Gyarmati 2022).

As for Africa, Hungarian interest in and contribution to its ethnography are less known. Although there were Hungarian travellers (adventurers, aristocrats, etc.) who visited various regions there from the beginning of the 19th century (or even before), the comprehensive history of those travels has not yet been written. Individual studies have been devoted to the African travels of László Magyar (1818–1864) (Sebestyén 2008, 2009 ; Sárkány 2019a, 2019b), Sámuel Teleki (1845–1916) (Borsos 2004, 2005, 2008), Pál Bornemisza (1853–1909) (Vidacs 1980), and Emil Torday (1875–1931) (Földessy 2015).

The Presence of Non-European People in Budapest : Ethnographic Shows between 1873 and 1928

Roughly overlapping with the period of those expeditions, there seems to have been general, popular, everyday knowledge concerning non-European indigenous peoples in late 19th-century Hungary. Rather stereotypical – colonial and evolutionary – knowledge appeared with and by means of the so-called ethnographic shows (Völkerschauen) in the late 19th to early 20th century in Europe, and also in Hungary. Especially in Budapest, it was common practice to exhibit groups of non-European peoples together with their arts and crafts in the city park/zoo. It was also common practice for scholars to hold “ethnographic” lectures in front of the exhibited groups for a non-academic audience.

Ethnographic shows were held from (probably) 1873 onwards in Budapest. Various groups of indigenous peoples performed in them while on their individual tours, which were organized by (mostly German) circus directors and impresarios like Hagenbeck, Urbach, Jakobson, Möller, and the like. There were Sámi (1873/74, 1888, 1894, 1913), Nubian (1878), Samoyed (1882, 1896), Sinhalese (1884), Darfur/Sudanese (1885), Somali/Sudanese (1885), Sioux (1886, 1890), Ashanti (1888), Bedouin (1890/91), and Zanzibar Suaheli (1891) performances. Furthermore, there was a show of the female royal guards (the so-called “Amazons”) from Dahomey (1892, 1898), visits by a Sudanese Dinka group (1894), a people from a Senegalese village and from Accra in Ghana (1896), Chinese from Tonkin (1896), a Malabar group from India (1900), a Samoan group (1901), an Ostyak (?) group (1913), and a whole Abyssinian/Somali village (1928) (Sz. Kristóf 2022c and forthcoming ; Főzy-Kelényi 2019 ; Perczel 2019).

The presence of the non-European, colonial world seems thus quite continuous in the capital of Hungary between 1873 and 1928. The performances were open air – skanzen-like – presentations of peoples and their ways of life. Following more or less closely the pattern established by the Swedish open air museum, called Skansen, they consisted of either an immobile exhibit of objects and artifacts, and/or were based on a structured, pre-designed re-enactment, a mobile performance of cultural practices and customs. It is apparent from the descriptions and the accompanying photos that ethnographic authenticity was the aim of those events. The staged scenes created an illusion of ancient/savage cultures, of non-European “natural peoples” which did no longer existed, or which were held to be undergoing the gradual but certain process of disappearing (Sz. Kristóf 2022c and forthcoming).

Spreading culturally and politically biased colonial stereotypes about those peoples as it did, the practice of the ethnographic lectures in front of the city park audience was quite similar to the academic practice that we know from Western European universities and museum collections from at least the middle of the 18th century. Among the latter, the Naturkabinet (cabinet of nature) of the Georg August University of Göttingen in particular served as a place of study for many Hungarian students around the turn of the 18th and the 19th century. German ethnology – and, as it seems, circus culture – provided several examples and patterns along which Hungarian anthropological practices developed in the second half of the 19th century (Sz. Kristóf 2022c and forthcoming).

While some Hungarian scholars were involved indeed in the study of the non-European groups in the city park, their interests seem to have remained somewhat limited. It was especially the linguists specializing on Finno-Ugric languages, like József Budenz (1836–1892) and others who came to interview the Sámi and the Samoyed groups for example, but there were only a couple of ethnographers and physical anthropologists – Ottó Herman (1835–1914) and Aurél Török (1842–1912) – who actually studied them. The two registers of academic discourse and circus culture (as which open-air performances were often ranked) were just in the process of distancing themselves from one another in the period. János Hunfalvy (1820–1888), for example, a learned Hungarian geographer who held the first lectures in the Budapest university about world ethnography, was not to be seen in the city park – at least not openly. Nor were other Hungarian scholars (Sz. Kristóf 2022c and forthcoming).

From the 1870s until WWI, anthropological examinations included anthropometric measurements, craniological examinations made to establish evolutionary scales. Such examinations seem to have been carried out on some of the non-European performers in Budapest. The Norwegian Sámi who came there in 1894 were examined in this way by Aurél Török (1842–1912), who pursued his studies in Paris and became the founder of the Institute of Anthropology and its collection of anthropology at the University of Budapest (Sz. Kristóf forthcoming). However, such examinations required the cooperation of the people concerned, and they sometimes could – and did – refuse them. It is noted about the Sioux, for example, who visited Budapest in 1886, that they did not allow such measurements to be carried out (Sz. Kristóf forthcoming).

Some of the material from those ethnographic exhibits was transferred later to the Museum of Ethnography. It was also the era of world exhibitions and of the above-mentioned skanzen villages showing ethnographic scenes (Stocklund 2003 ; Sz. Kristóf forthcoming). In Hungary, skanzen villages were built during the Millennial Exhibition in 1896, but they were dismantled later. The open-air museum, which is in operation today in the vicinity of Budapest, in the town of Szentendre, was established in 1967.

Between the First and the Second World Wars : Exploration of the Countryside and Peasant Culture ; Towards the Socialist Period (1918–1951)

The period between the two world wars in the history of ethnography in Hungary has not been sufficiently explored, let alone written about. [3] It is a highly problematic period from both a political and scholarly point of view. As part of the peace treaties around Paris that ended the First World War, the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 established new borders for Hungary, which had lost the war as a successor state to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Cutting off parts of the country, the treaty created many small multinational states in place of the disintegrated empire. Taking away areas especially from the eastern, northern and southern parts of the historical kingdom of Hungary, and annexing them to the surrounding countries like Roumania, Czechoslovakia, and the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Kingdom (and also Austria and Poland), the Treaty of Trianon created a sense of loss that largely shaped the political and scientific thinking for decades to come in Hungary. In principle, the annexations affected non-Hungarian majority areas. (Ethnographic/historiographic research on these will be covered in separate studies in the future.) During the period, there was a significant movement of village exploration (falukutatás) in Hungary, with different branches, some more ethnographical in orientation and others more sociological. Intellectuals (writers, teachers, sociologists, economists, etc.) visited Hungarian villages and attempted to describe the way of life and the customs of the people. The largest Hungarian ethnographic enterprise of the period was the series entitled Magyarság Néprajza [Ethnography of the Hungarians], the first volume of which was published in 1933. Ethnographers and others were interested in the supposed Asian ethnic roots of the Hungarians : not so much the Finno-Ugric roots, but the broader, so-called “Turanic” ones (Ablonczy 2016). Turning simultaneously to the peasants and to the Orient, the cultivation of ethnography also meant in-depth studies of local history at that time (István Györffy (1884–1939) ; Béla Gunda (1911–1994)), the legacy of which lived on in ethnography even after the Second World War. A more sociographical branch of village exploration resulted in a series of monographic studies, both large and small (Ferenc Erdei (1910–1971) ; Géza Féja (1900–1978) ; Gyula Illyés (1902–1983) ; Géza Kiss (1891–1947) ; Gyula Ortutay (1910–1978) ; Zoltán Szabó (1912–1984) and others ; see for example Illyés 1936 ; Erdei 1937 ; Féja 1937 ; Kiss 1937 ; Szabó 1938). Some of those village explorers took on a political role in the smallholders’ and the socialist parties after the Second World War (e.g. Ferenc Erdei and Gyula Ortutay held ministerial posts).

University education in ethnography has a complicated history in this period. It has been more or less regular since 1922 when Sándor Solymossy (1864–1945) habilitated as a private lecturer in “ethnology” (ethnológia) in the University of Budapest. Then, after late 19th-century beginnings in Kolozsvár/Cluj (today in Roumania), and the move of that department to Szeged in 1919, Kunó Klebelsberg (1875–1932), the minister of culture and education established the Institute of Ethnography (Néprajzi Intézet) in the University of Szeged in 1929, and nominated Sándor Solymossy as head of the department. Finally, in 1934, István Györffy (1884–1939) was appointed professor in the Department of Ethnography at the University of Budapest, and since then, education can be considered continuous there.

From the Socialist Period to the Change of Regime (1963/1967 to 1989/1990) : Professional Academic Research, Its Institutions and Areas

In 1967, the Research Group of Ethnography (Néprajzi Kutatócsoport) – chaired by Gyula Ortutay (1910–1978) – was established in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia). It was separated from the Department of Folklore at the University of Budapest, founded in 1963. The Research Group also had a social anthropology (társadalomnéprajz) department – chaired by Tibor Bodrogi (1924–1986) between 1969 and 1975 – which was (and still is) primarily concerned with research on peoples outside Europe. Tibor Bodrogi also functioned as director of the Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum) between 1961 and 1968, and as chair of the Research Group of Ethnography between 1978 and 1986. With the establishment of a department of cultural anthropology – chaired by Lajos Boglár (1929–2004) – at Eötvös Loránd University in 1990/1991, and later at universities in the countryside (Miskolc, Pécs, Szeged), the main features of the institutional structure that defines the current framework for ethnographic and social anthropological research and teaching were established.

One of the most distinctive academic activities of the 1960s and 1970s was the translation of foreign anthropological literature. During this period, the works of Franz Boas, Leo Frobenius, Louis-Henry Morgan, Bronisław Malinowski, Karl Polányi, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Giuseppe Cocchiara, Kaj Birket-Smith, Kustaa Vilkuna, Johan Turi and others were published in (more or less abbreviated) Hungarian translation. The translators include eminent Hungarian anthropologists such as Tibor Bodrogi, [4] Lajos Boglár, Mihály Sárkány and others. These works were incorporated into university education, in which the teaching of domestic ethnography (néprajz) was not separated from the teaching of universal, general ethnography (egyetemes néprajz or etnológia). At Eötvös Loránd University, for example, in the 1980s, the course module called general ethnography (Egyetemes néprajz) included classes on the peoples of the world (Világ népei) which provided four semesters of the ethnography of Africa, America, Asia and the history of ethnology. The lecturers were Tibor Bodrogi (general ethnology and history of science ; ethnography of Indonesia and Oceania), Lajos Boglár (ethnography of the Americas), László Borsányi (1944–2014) (ethnography of the Americas), Csaba Ecsedy (1942–1995) (ethnography of Africa), Annamária Lammel (ethnography of the Americas), Mihály Sárkány (ethnography of Africa), Gábor Vargyas (ethnography of Australia and Oceania), and others. Education also included the teaching of the ethnography of particular peoples within Europe, e.g. the courses of Sándor Scheiber (1913–1985) (on the Jews), or, József Vekerdi (1927–2015) (on the Roma), and so on. There were courses on the ethnography of some of the minorities living in Hungary, for example the Slovaks (by Anna Gyivicsán).

The teaching of domestic ethnography in the 1980s was to some extent separate from non-European ethnography, but also parallel with it and was carried out in the same institutions. Since 1951, at the Eötvös Loránd University, the Department of Ethnography and the Department of Folkore have functioned separately : the former under the chair of István Tálasi (1910–1984), Jenő Barabás (1920–1994), Attila Paládi-Kovács (1940–), Tamás Mohay (1959–) and the latter under the chair of Gyula Ortutay (1910–1978), Tekla Dömötör (1914–1987), Vilmos Voigt (1940–), Kincső Verebélyi (1945–) and Dániel Bárth (1976–).

At the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Research Group of Ethnography (Néprajzi Kutatócsoport) – from 1991, Institute of Ethnology (Néprajzi Intézet) – planned and carried out mainly large, summarizing works. Between 1977 and 1982 it published the five-volume Magyar Néprajzi Lexikon [Lexicon of Hungarian Ethnography] (editor-in-chief Gyula Ortutay), followed by the Magyar Néprajzi Atlasz [Atlas of Hungarian Folk Culture] between 1987 and 1992 (editor-in-chief Jenő Barabás), containing a total of 634 maps in nine volumes. A handbook series entitled Magyar Néprajz [Hungarian Ethnography] was also published (editor-in-chief Attila Paládi-Kovács), including volumes on Magyar Népköltészet [Hungarian folk poetry] (1988), Népzene, néptánc, népi játék [Folk music, folk dance, and games] (1990), Népszokás, néphit, népi vallásosság [Folk customs, beliefs and religion] (1990), Kézművesség [Crafts] (1991), Életmód [Lifeways] (1997), Társadalom [Society] (2000), Gazdálkodás [Agriculture] (2001), Táj, nép, történelem [Landscape, people, history] (2009–2011).

As far as the orientation of research is concerned, the socialist era left quite a mark on it, especially at the beginning of the period (e.g. Marxist analyses, research on workers and work culture, a sort of idealisation of peasant culture, etc.) ; however, truly valuable and timeless studies were also produced.

Although the ethnography of the period meant above all the collection and study of rural material culture and folklore, and to a lesser extent the study of the structure and components of local societies – and least of all the study of religions/churches – valuable social studies were also carried out, for example by the Research Group of Ethnography of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Such was the case, for example, with the team research on the village of Varsány (Nógrád county) between 1971 and 1975 (Kata Jávor, Piroska Szabó, Mihály Sárkány, etc.), the economic and sociological research on the village of Átány (Heves county) in the 1950s (Edit Fél, Tamás Hofer), or the research on the village of Tázlár (Bács-Kiskun county) in the 1970s (Chris Hann, Mihály Sárkány). We can also include the study trips and collecting exercises organised in the 1980s for university students in cooperation between the Department of Ethnography of the University of Budapest and the Research Group of Ethnography of the Academy to the villages of Őrség region in Western Hungary (led by Jenő Barabás), or to Borsod County in Eastern Hungary (mainly to the villages of Ároktő, Tiszadorogma and Tiszacsege, led by József Papp).

Universities and museums in the countryside (Debrecen, Miskolc, Pécs, etc.) concentrated on local and regional research. The Department of Ethnography at the University of Debrecen had a strong focus on the agriculture and material culture of the Carpathian Basin (Béla Gunda), on folk traditions and customs in Hungary (Zoltán Ujváry ; see Viga 1991 ; 2012 ; 2015), and on the comprehensive research of the Gömör county (today in Slovakia), led by Zoltán Ujváry (1932-2018). In the 1980s, the Hermann Ottó Museum in Miskolc organised regional collections in the villages (among them, mining communities) of Northern Hungary, and its staff also researched local ethnographic muselogy (Gyula Viga). The University of Szeged in Southern Hungary – pursued research in riverine fishing villages and towns, like Csongrád and other localities of the Great Plain (Tibor Bellon (1941–2002), Antal Juhász (1935–2020) and others).

The Scandinavian/Finnish research links mentioned earlier – in addition to ethnographic collecting, museum displays and skanzen villages – have also played a role in raising the question of historicity. All this went hand in hand with a sociological approach that took a broad view of the town and its strata and also regional cultures. The example of Ilmar Talve (1919–2007), an excellent Estonian researcher from Turku, Finland was a guide for many Hungarian researchers, as he himself referred to the studies of his Hungarian colleagues (Béla Gunda, Jenő Barabás, Tamás Hofer). His large summary work on the popular culture of Finland (Suomen kansankulttuuri [The folk culture of Finland]) was translated into Hungarian by János Kodolányi (Talve 1979 ; Talve 2000). The regular Finnish-Hungarian symposia of the 1980s contributed to the confirmation of research partnership, and an effective exchange of ideas (Ildikó Lehtinen).

Talve described not only one but several Nordic cultures. He analysed the inner regional and historical versions and their layers and he attempted to identify local social mechanisms in their background. He described Finnish and Swedish peasant and urban culture in meticulous detail, sometimes together with the elements of the neighbouring Estonian and the indigenous Sámi cultures – and he did it in such a way that the particular cultural/ethnic practices and the local historical/archival collections relating to them could emerge very clearly from his work (Talve 1979). His deep interests in the historicity of cultural phenomena and their social foundation, and his combined research of ethnography and history proved to be revealing for a good number of Hungarian scholars (Tamás Hofer, Zsuzsa Szarvas, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, and others) in the period. Hungarian folklorists also learned a lot from the Finnish research tradition (Ildikó Landgráf, Ildikó Tamás, and others). Tamás Hofer (1929–2016), an excellent scholar on Hungarian peasant society (Institute of Ethnology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences ; Museum of Ethnography, Budapest) approached his topics similarly, in a sociologically/anthropologically and historically informed way. He became an enthusiastic supporter of interdisciplinary research in Hungary, and he was one of the first supporters of the research direction of historical anthropology in Hungary during the 1980s. He figured among the organizers of the first conference on historical anthropology in Budapest in 1983 (Hofer 1984 ; Mohay 1992).

There was a lot of important individual and collective research during the period, not all of which can obviously be listed here. Some research deserves mention, however.

The role of historicity, and its uses in ethnographic data, has been addressed by a number of researchers in many different fields : social-regional stratification (Miklós Szilágyi (1939-2019), László Kósa, Antal Filep, Bertalan Andrásfalvy), settlement types (János Bárth), animal husbandry (Attila Paládi-Kovács, Miklós Szilágyi), fishing (Miklós Szilágyi),vineyard culture (Melinda Égető), food culture (Eszter Kisbán, Klára Kuti), folk customs and folk beliefs (Tekla Dömötör), witchcraft and witch-hunting (Éva Pócs, Katalin Benedek, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf), Eurasian shamanism (Vilmos Diószegi, Mihály Hoppál), folk dance (György Martin), epic and lyrical folklore genres (Imola Küllős, Ilona Nagy, Vilmos Voigt), etc.

The study of religious practices was limited (not politically supported) at the beginning of the period, but towards the end it was significantly boosted (Sándor Bálint, Gábor Barna, Antal Filep, Tamás Mohay, Jenő Szigeti, the so-called Doctors’ Committee of the Reformed Church, etc.) – so much so that in the next, now recent period, it became one of the dominant trends in Hungarian ethnography.

As regards the reception of foreign research approaches, beyond the Scandinavian/Finnish influences already mentioned, these are more in keeping with the research topics concerned. The incipient research on tradition, identity and oral history (Tamás Hofer, Péter Niedermüller) drew on current representatives of American, German and French cultural anthropology and sociology (oral history methods, Hermann Bausinger, Pierre Bourdieu, for example).

Research on witch-hunting (Éva Pócs, Gábor Klaniczay, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf) was based on the insights of classical British functionalist social anthropology (E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Max Gluckman, Max Marwick) on the one hand, and on the results of contemporary French narrative research (Jeanne Favret-Saada) on the other. In folklore, semiotics (Vilmos Voigt, Imre Gráfik, etc.) appeared, drawing on the works of Yuri Lotman, Vladimir Propp and others in its analyses.

In the 1980s/1990s, a whole school of scholarship developed around Lajos Boglár (1929–2004), a Hungarian anthropologist of Brazilian origin, who selected from the methods of contemporary American cultural anthropology (he called his method “eclectic anthropology”). In addition to the so-called action anthropology (Sol Tax), Boglár focused especially on fieldwork methodology (Boglár 2004 ; Kézdi Nagy 1999 ; Főzy 2008, 2016 ; Papp 2020a, 2020b). He and his students above all applied and taught the empiricism and cultural relativist approaches of Franz Boas. The latter also appeared, for example, in the field of Roma studies, which were booming at the time (Csaba Prónai). Others drew on research on Latin American archaeology (János Gyarmati) and indigenous customs and beliefs (Annamária Lammel, Géza Kézdi Nagy, later László Letenyei, Katalin Schiller). Close cooperation was established with the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Szeged, which continued in the following period, where Ádám Anderle (1943–2016) and his students (Katalin Jancsó, Dóra Babarczi, György Szeljak) studied, among other things, the historical material on Hungarian travellers and missionaries in Latin America.

Fieldwork outside Europe during the period was carried out by the following (the list is not exhaustive) :

Tibor Bodrogi (South-East Asia), Lajos Boglár (Brazil, Venezuela), Balázs Borsos (Africa), Vilmos Diószegi (Siberia), Csaba Ecsedy (Africa), Vilma Főzy (Mexico), János Gyarmati (Bolivia, Peru), Mihály Hoppál (Siberia), Ágnes Kerezsi (Siberia), János Kodolányi Jr. (Finland), Annamária Lammel (Mexico), Péter Lágler (Mongolia), Zoltán Nagy (Siberia), Eszter Ruttkay-Miklián (Siberia), István Sántha (Siberia), Mihály Sárkány (Africa), Éva Sebestyén (Africa), Éva Schmidt (Siberia), Bea Vidacs (Africa) and Gábor Vargyas (Australia, Vietnam).

Finally, anthropologists who left the country should also be mentioned, some of whom returned to Hungary after the regime change (1989/1990) : Veronika Görög-Karády from France (African studies, folklore), Bea Vidacs from the USA (African studies, religious anthropology) and András Zempléni from France (African studies, social anthropology). Others did not return but maintained various levels of contact with scholars in Hungary, like Annamária Losonczy (Paris, France/Brussels, Belgium), Ákos Östör (Middletowon, Con., USA), Mátyás Szabó (Stockholm, Sweden) and László Vajda (München, Germany). The story of those contacts and their impact on Hungarian ethnography and anthropology is still to be written.

From the point of view of historiography, one of the most important achievements of the period was the compilation of a comprehensive bibliography of the early history of Hungarian ethnology and anthropology (see Kovács, Sárkány & Vargyas 1991).

From the Change of Regime of 1989/1990 to the 2020s : New Orientations, the Western Impact, and the Renewal of Research Methodology

The political act of regime change (1989) did not seem to have a direct impact on the development of the humanities and the social sciences in Hungary. Rather, it can be thought of as a phase that began earlier and faded away later. During those years, new approaches were started which worked against mainstream positivism and structuralism : approaches that were primarily pragmatic, culture-centred, and which – at that time – were intended to redefine the orientation, interests and topics of ethnography and cultural anthropology, and to modify the relation between the latter as well as between anthropology and literary studies, anthropology and history.

Before and after 1989, several important things happened at the same time which impacted scholarly life in Hungary. The emergence and consolidation of a new social history within the István Hajnal Society ; specializing in socio-economic approaches, it was founded in 1988. The emergence of analytical/critical/deconstructive approaches based on the so-called ’poetics’ (the rhetoric of sociocultural phenomena) on the one hand, and the so-called ’politics” (the socially positioned, situational character of the latter), on the other (Clifford-Marcus 1986). These approaches were particularly influential in the field of ethnography and cultural anthropology in the early 1990s. The approach of “poetics” and “politics” seemed to work well for “ethnographic textsand “ethnographic representations”, the reading and interpretation of which were considered more and more as an act of “thick description” (Geertz 1973). The works of James Clifford, George Marcus, Renato Rosaldo, Paul Rabinow, Vincent Crapanzano, Arjun Appadurai and, most of all, the interpretive anthropology of Clifford Geertz exercised a considerable impact on ethnographical and anthropological research in Hungary (Biczó-Kiss 2003 ; N. Kovács 1999 ; Vörös 1994, 1995b). The new approaches provoked heated methodological debates that in some cases had long-term consequences, a lasting impact present even today (“A kultúrakutatás esélyei” 1994 ; Niedermüller 1989, 1994a, 1994b ; Sárkány 1990). Unfortunately, the history of those debates and the period itself has not yet been written. One can say in general that Hungarian scholars felt the need to choose between positivism and interpretative views, morphology and pragmatics, anthropology and literature, grand narratives and micro-perspectives (Sz. Kristóf 1998 ; Vörös 1994 ; 1995b ; 1999). The accompanying intellectual effervescence could be tackled both in Budapest and the country’s other universities (especially Miskolc and Pécs) and in the museums as well (Fejős-Pusztai 2008 ; Kotics-Kántor-Lajos 2020).

This period proved very inventive and productive in the adoption and application of various branches of the new research methodology. In parallel with a new social history, following especially French and English approaches (those of Jacques Le Goff, Peter Burke, Natalie Zemon Davis and others) more global, postcolonial approaches appeared in Hungary in general (in literary studies, and elsewhere) and in ethnography and anthropology in particular (such as the works of Edward W. Said, Gayatri C. Spivak, Homi K. Bhabha and others). The young scholars of the period could get acquainted – and become fascinated – with historical anthropology, interpretive anthropology, critical cultural studies, deconstruction, indigenous anthropology, etc. They tried to understand ethnography and anthropology in a broader sense than usual, and to cultivate it more analytically and reflectively.

During the 1990s and the early 2000s, one of the centres of the new approach was the Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum) in Budapest, in addition to the University of Miskolc and, later, the University of Pécs. Numerous studies by Zoltán Fejős, director of the Museum of Ethnography (19972012) were related to the history of ethnography in Hungary and the construction of exoticism in the context of the musealisation of objects (Fejős 2012 ; 2020a and 2020b ; Fejős-Pusztai 2008 ; N. Kovács 2003, 2008). Several studies focused on the methodological aspects of the new critical/cultural studies and the new cultural historicism and their applicability in ethnography and anthropology (Vörös 1994 ; 1995a, 1995b ; 1999 ; 2011 ; Vörös-Hadas 1996 ; N. Kovács 2007a ; 2007b ; 2009a ; 2009b). A conference entitled Anthropology and Literature. The emergence of a new paradigm was held in the Department of Visual Anthropology of the University of Miskolc in 2002 (Biczó-Kiss 2003). And another important conference entitled Towards the exotic – approaches, perspectives was organized in the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest in 2007 (Fejős – Pusztai 2008).

A number of new research institutions (university departments, museums, research groups, periodicals, etc.) were created. Among them was the Atelier, a Franco-Hungarian doctoral programme established in 1988 in Budapest in cooperation between the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris, and Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, which has enabled several Hungarian anthropologists/historians to study at EHESS (Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, Gábor Gelléri, Ágnes Molnár and others). In the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a new Institute for Minority Research (Kisebbségkutató Intézet) was created, focusing on Hungarian minorities in Roumania (Margit Feischmidt), Hungarian minorites in Slovakia (László Szarka), Hungarian minorities in Latin-America (Nóra Kovács), Roma in Hungary and Roumania (Boglárka Bakó), German minorities in Hungary (Györgyi Bindorfer, Ágnes Tóth), and other minority groups.

Among the newly established academic journals, the most important from an anthropological perspective were/are Regio, Replika, Café Bábel and the critical review Budapesti Könyvszemle (Budapest Review of Books)/BUKSZ.

As for the translation of international anthropological literature, after 1989, thanks to the work of several individual translators, books by Émile Durkeim, Arnold Van Gennep, Margaret Mead, Victor V. Turner, and others were published. Among the translators and editors are Hungarian anthropologists : Gábor Gelléri (Claude Lévi-Strauss), Gábor Vargyas (Durkheim and Van Gennep), Ildikó Sz. Kristóf (Claude Lévi-Strauss and Peter Burke). A major professional translation project of the period was the translation of the substantial anthology of Paul Bohannan and Mark Glazer (High Points in Anthropology, 1988, 2d edition) (Bohannan-Glazer 1997), in which several young anthropologists participated under the editorial guidance of Mihály Sárkány (Balázs Borsos, Nóra Kovács, Noémi Saly, Diana Szántó, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, Gábor Vargyas, Bea Vidacs).

Four of the abovementioned anthropologists (Balázs Borsos, Nóra Kovács, Mihály Sárkány, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf) participated in the inaugural biennial conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) in Coimbra, Portugal in 1990.

As far as university education is concerned, a doctoral school on European ethnology was launched at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest in 1993, in which many of the researchers mentioned in this section have taught.

The research topics of the period are rather numerous and kaleidoscopic ; the enumeration that follows cannot be exhaustive. One important direction of research is related to the theory and methodology of anthropology and to ethnographic museology and representation (Zoltán Fejős, Péter Niedermüller, Gábor Biczó, Péter Lágler, Miklós Vörös, Gábor Wilhelm, Zsófia Frazon, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, Klára Kuti, and others). Embedded within this, the history of anthropology has also been studied both in its international and Hungarian forms (Zoltán Fejős, Gábor Biczó, Mihály Sárkány, Gábor Vargyas, Gábor Wilhelm, István Sántha, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, and most recently Csaba Mészáros, Zoltán Nagy and others). A special focus was put on the relation between literature and anthropology (Gábor Biczó, Tímea N. Kovács), the construction of exoticism (Zoltán Fejős, Bertalan Pusztai, Tímea N. Kovács, Tamás Régi) and the construction of tradition, authenticity, identity and oral history, the latter both as a way of communication to be researched and a research method itself (Tamás Hofer, Péter Niedermüller, Gábor Wilhelm and others).

Closely related to the question of representation and interpretation, several new research topics emerged in the period. Visuality (ethnographic photography and film) was/is a very popular one (Lajos Boglár, Ernő Kunt, Judit Csorba, Tímea Bata, Péter Illés, Károly Zsolt Nagy, most recently Gebauer Hanga, and others). Tourism in Europe and outside of it also came to the foreground (Bertalan Pusztai, Tamás Régi). Relying on the proposals of George Marcus, multi-sited ethnography – and also, applied anthropology, participation and collaborative ethnography – appeared, and most recently online ethnography emerged (Veronika Lajos, Károly Zsolt Nagy). The anthropology of football was initiated (János Bali) and, the study of the uses of ethnographic heritage (heritage studies) arose (Ágnes Fülemile, Balázs Balogh, János Bali, Eszter Csonka Takács and others). Among the most recent research topics are ecological anthropology (Balázs Borsos, Gábor Máté, Dániel Babai, Csaba Mészáros) and fieldwork methodology and epistemology (Gábor Biczó, Csaba Mészáros, Károly Zsolt Nagy, Péter Illés, Tamás Régi, Gábor Vargyas).

Among the more traditional research topics, the anthropology of religion has grown to become one of the most dominant research trends in the recent period, both in the field of Catholic and Protestant religion and in the field of Judaism (Tamás Mohay, Dániel Bárth, Zsuzsanna Muntagné Tabajdi, Bence Ament-Kovács, Gábor Vargyas, Éva Pócs, Gábor Barna, Krisztina Frauhammer, Norbert Glässer). Important exploratory work is being carried out both in Budapest institutions and at universities in the countryside to learn about the ethnographic activities of local pastors (Antal Filep, László Mód, Anna Szakál).

As for research on material culture, the study of domestic crafts has become a characteristic direction (János Bali, János Szulovszky, Fruzsina Cseh), together with food and general economic practice and its transformations (Anikó Báti, Péter Illés and others).

Based on earlier research, legal ethnography/anthropology has reinforced its field (Lajos Takács, Ernő Tárkány-Szűcs, Janka Teodóra Nagy, Szabina Bognár and others).

Ethnic minorities living in Hungary have been studied : Croatians by Sándor Horváth, Szabina Bognár, Germans by Györgyi Bindorffer, Réka Földváryné Kiss, Balázs Balogh, Bence Ament-Kovács, and Jews by Miklós Rékai, Zsuzsa Szarvas, Richárd Papp, Kata Zsófia Vincze, among others.

Special focus has been placed on Roma studies (in cooperation, among others with Michael Stewart) : culture, social problems and migration both inside and outside Hungary (Csaba Prónai, Péter Szuhay, Gábor Biczó, Péter Berta, Boglárka Bakó, József Kotics, Klára Gulyás, László Fosztó and others).

The comprehensive research of Hungarian minorities living outside Hungary has become another significant direction in this period (Margit Feischmidt, Nóra Kovács, János Bali, Balázs Balogh, Ágnes Fülemile, Sándor Borbély, Tünde Turai).

Between 2011 and 2018, the Institute of Ethnography and Archaeology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Dagnosław Demski and Kamila Baraniecka-Olszewska) and the Institute of Ethnography of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences cooperated on a larger scale on the topic “Visual Encounters with Alterity” and “Staged Otherness in East-Central Europe’, which resulted in several conferences and several volumes of publications (Ágnes Fülemüle, Ildikó Sz. Kristóf).

Until the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war (February 2022), significant fieldwork was conducted in Siberia, Central Asia and the Far East (Eszter Ruttkay-Miklián, Mihály Hoppál, István Sántha, Dávid Somfai Kara, Csaba Mészáros, Zsolt Szilágyi). One of the current major projects of the Institute of Ethnology is the ’Publication of the Legacies of Great Hungarian Ethnologists’ (Zsolt Szilágyi), which aims to publish the ethnographic legacies of important Asianist ethnologists such as Antal Reguly (1819–1858), Vilmos Diószegi (1923–1972) and others. The legacies of György Almásy (1867–1933) and Benedek Baráthosi Balogh (1870–1945) are planned to be published as part of an inter-institutional cooperation (István Sántha, Dávid Somfai Kara). As for the legacy of more recent Hungarian researchers, the South American fieldnotes of Lajos Boglár (1929–2004) are going to be published in the near future (György Szeljak).

Outside Europe, the following researchers have done fieldwork (the list is not exhaustive) : research was pursued in Finno-Ugric Scandinavia and Siberia (Ildikó Tamás, Zoltán Nagy), in Asia (István Sántha, Dávid Somfai Kara, Zsolt Szilágyi, Csaba Mészáros, Ildikó Gyöngyvér Sárközi, Gábor Vargyas) in Africa (Mihály Sárkány, Tamás Régi) and in North and South America (Ildikó Sz. Kristóf, Vilma Főzy, János Gyarmati, Nóra Kovács).

The Main Areas of Folklore Research between 1989/1990 and the Early 2020s [5]

In the 1990s, the research on religiosity, which had begun much earlier, continued, including paraliturgical practices, places of worship, profane religiosity, apocryphal prayers, and so on (Gábor Barna, Zsuzsanna Erdélyi, Judit Czövek). Since the early 2000s, this field has received a new impetus due to participant observation studies (Laura Iancu) and the research on peasant customs has also continued (Zsuzsanna Tátrai, Laura Iancu), with research on the second life of peasant oral tradition in the 20th century (folklorism, folklore revival) also being pursued (Zsuzsanna Tátrai, Ilona Nagy, Ágnes Eitler).

In the field of folkloristics, the most important activity is that of Éva Pócs, retired professor and ERC grantee. She and her research group (Péter G. Tóth, Tünde Komáromi, Emese Ilyefalvi and others) have been primarily involved in the development of an archive of folk beliefs, the systematisation of belief narratives, the elaboration of numerous topics related to magic, witchcraft, rites and charms, the organisation of interdisciplinary conferences and the publication of several volumes.

In the 1990s, the study of the links between Old Testament apocrypha and Hungarian folklore, specifically the origin and legendary tales, which had begun decades earlier, was continued (Ilona Nagy). The research also gave a great impetus to the study of the intersections between literacy and orality. Since the early 2000s, the collection of oral tales and stories has also continued, and they started to be catalogued (Zoltán Magyar). Since the beginning of the 1990s, the study of historical legends has gained momentum, as has the observation of the links between historical traditions and major social processes such as nation-building, and that between various cataclysms (natural disasters, war) and the historical knowledge of the individual (Ildikó Landgraf). Another important aspect of folklore studies was the influence of literacy on orality, the study of popular readings (populäre Lesestoffe) and the influence of the mass press on peasant folklore. Since the early 2000s, there has also been a resurgence of research into 17th–19th-century secular popular poetry. From the last third of the 18th century onwards, popular poetry was also published in cheap print, and study of it was in many ways linked to the study of high culture and also Protestant colleges of the period (Imola Küllős, István Rumen Csörsz). The early 2000s also saw a new impetus in the study of popular reading matter, such as cheap prints, broadsides (Einblattdruck) and calendars. The relation of those prints to the shaping and dissemination of national ideas and the relation of folktales to political propaganda have been thoroughly studied (Éva Mikos, Ildikó Landgraf, Mariann Domokos).

Since the establishment of the Institute of Ethnology, paremiological research, the collection of sayings, proverbs and riddles, and the exploration and systematisation of the related archival data have been of great importance (Ágnes Szemerkényi, Katalin Vargha).

Folklorists have built up contacts with scholars of 19th-century literary history and are involved in projects aimed at researching women writers and women’s literature of the period, as well as children’s literature.

The 2000s saw a new impetus for the reassessment of the 19th-century beginnings and early concepts of folklore research. In this period, the genre of the fairy tale received most attention (Judit Gulyás, Mariann Domokos).

Since the 2010s, research on children’s folklore has been re-emerging in a new approach, interpreting it as oral and online folklore of youth subcultures (Ildikó Tamás). At the same time, the transformation of other genres and the relationship between folklore and mass media (film, TV, internet) have become a focus of interest : the transformation of fairy tales and legends into mass media products, the folklore of electoral campaigns, anti-proverbs, the folklore of the Covid-19 pandemic, internet memes, and the like (Ilona Nagy, Mariann Domokos, Katalin Vargha, Ildikó Tamás, Éva Mikos).

During this period, several volumes of the Új Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [New Hungarian Folklore Collection] series, founded by Gyula Ortutay (1910–1978), were published. This is a critical edition of earlier and recent collections. One of the most significant undertakings of Hungarian folklore studies in the period after 1989 has been the Magyar Népköltészeti Lexikon [Encyclopaedia of Hungarian Folklore], edited by Ágnes Szemerkényi and containing almost two thousand entries. It was launched in 2010 and will be completed shortly.

In addition to databases of folk beliefs and witchcraft trials (Péter Tóth G., Éva Pócs), one of the Institute of Ethnology’s biggest projects is the digitisation of the completed questionnaires of Magyar Néprajzi Atlasz [Atlas of Hungarian Folk Culture] (1987–1992).

The Present : Transformations in Institutions and Research Curricula

Between 2010 and 2020, with the coming of a new government, the framework for research of ethnography and anthropology has changed in many ways in Hungary. The most important changes are, on one hand, that in 2019 the research institutes were separated from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Eötvös Loránd Kutatási Hálózat (ELKH) [Loránd Eötvös Research Network] was created. The Institute of Ethnology formed part of that network, belonging more closely to its Research Centre for the Humanities. On the other hand, in 2022, the Museum of Ethnography moved to a completely new location and building in Budapest and new exhibitions have been organised. One of the most important research emerging there is the source community project, involving local communities in identifying and interpreting objects and artifacts preserved in the museum since the second half of the 19th century.

In September 2023, the Loránd Eötvös Research Network was renamed Magyar Kutatási Hálózat [Hungarian Research Network], and, most recently, all of its research institutions were given the name HUN REN [abbreviation of the latter designation].

There has been a noticeable eastward orientation, towards various Asian countries, among them, China. Authors have been invited to write about those most recent developments.

Afterword

The outline of the history of science presented here shows how diverse the discourse and later the science of anthropology was in Hungary from the very beginning. Spatially – due to its geographic location and history – this discourse was present in several religions, both in the Catholic and Protestant traditions, practically from the mid-16th century, but more extensively from the second half of the 17th century. Its nature and content have always been influenced by local political factors on the one hand, and by intellectual currents from outside on the other : dependence on the Turkish Empire, then dependence on the Habsburg Empire, following German, then Russian/Soviet, then Western European and American models, etc. The social position of those who practised anthropological discourse/science has also changed over the centuries. During the 18th century they were secularised, and in the 19th century – and especially today – their religious representatives reappeared. They also had their sociological position in relation to local traditions and foreign influences : they turned to this or that theme, trend, methodological approach, and adapted their science accordingly. What has remained structurally constant, however, is the turn towards local knowledge, whether in Hungary or outside Europe, to learn about it closely, preferably according to its own categories, and to search for identity(ies) in and through the various elements of culture.

In this overview, little has been said about the nationalities and minorities living in Hungary and their own anthropological traditions. However, it is the intention of researchers involved in writing the history of anthropological sciences in Hungary to help fill these gaps – namely within the BEROSE encyclopaedia and the research theme dedicated to the “History of Anthropologies, Ethnologies and Ethnographies in Hungary, 17th–20th centuries”.

The author of the present overview would like to believe – and she is not alone in this belief – that the practitioners of ethnography and anthropology and also those of the history of science in Hungary have learned and still can learn from all periods and trends of the past, so that they can build a better, more meaningful, and peaceful future, accepting cultural differences with interest and tolerance, by preserving not only our “folk” but also our best interpretive/reflective traditions.

Acknowledgments : I would like to express my thanks to my colleague, Éva Mikos (HUN-REN BTK, Institute of Ethnology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences) who was so kind as to contribute to this overview with a summary of research in folkloristics between 1989 and 2020. The list of exhibitions of the Museum of Ethnography (Budapest (1980–2023) was compiled by Borbála Mészáros, librarian at the Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum Könyvtára). It was read by Zsuzsa Szarvas, senior museologist and former vice-director, and Mónika Lackner, senior museologist at the museum. I want to express my gratitude for their work.

Selected list of exhibitions, 1980–2023
Museum of Ethnography, Budapest [6]

1980–1995, Az őstársadalmaktól a civilizációkig. Állandó kiállítás [From clans to civilizations. Permanent exhibition]/Lajos Boglár ; János Kodolányi et al.

1991–2017, A magyar nép hagyományos kultúrája – a magyar népi kultúra két évszázada : 1720–1910. Állandó kiállítás [Folk culture of the Hungarians. Two centuries of the Hungarian folk culture : 1720–1920. Permanent exhibition]/Attila Selmeczi Kovács et al.

1991–1992, Rokonaink Szibériában – Hantik. Két magyar nő Szibériában a sámánok között. [Our relatives in Siberia – the Khanty. Two women in Siberia among the shamans]/Ágnes Kerezsi, Erzsébet Winter.

1994, Magyarok kelet és Nyugat között. Nemzeti legendák és jelképek [Hungarians between East and West. National legends and symbols]/Tamás Hofer et al.

1995–1996, Ethno-Phono-Photo– Kinematográfia. A néprajzi hang- és képrögzítés fejlődése [Ethno-phono-photo-kinematographia. The development of ethnographic sound-recording and film-making]/János Tari et al.

1996, Baráthosi Balogh Benedek ajnu és Amur-vidéki gyűjteménye [In search of the ancient homeland. The ethnographic collection of Benedek Baráthosi Balogh from the region of river Amur and Japan]/Gábor Wilhelm.

1997–1999, Kalotaszeg – a népművészet felfedezése [Kalotaszeg – Discovery of folk art]/Tamás Hofer, Éva Szacsvay et al.

2000–2001, Időképek. Millenniumi kiállítás [Images of time. Millenary exhibition at the Museum of Ethnography]/Zoltán Fejős et al.

2001–2002, A kaland nyomában. Tolnai Festetics Rudolf gróf óceániai utazásai [In search of adventure : count Rudolf Festetics and the Tolna’s journeys in the Pacific]/Judit Antoni, János Gyarmati.

2001–2002, Fiers Magyars. Splendeur des manteaux hongrois (Musée de l’Homme, Paris)/Péter Granasztói, Mónika Lackner.

2002, Háztörténetek. Német sorsok a Duna mentén [House stories. German traces in the Danube countries.] In cooperation with Donauschwäbisches Zentralmuseum, Ulm/Henrike Hampe, Mónika Lackner.

2002–2003, A kaméleon [Chameleon.]/Edina Földessy.

2003–2004, Eredeti, másolat, hamisítvány. Tárgyak párbeszédben [Original, copy, forgery. Objects in conversation]/Vilma Főzy, Mónika Lackner et al.

2004–2005, Boldog/képek [The village of Boldog – Images]/Zoltán Fejős.

2005–2006, Sámánszobrok és kőjaguárok. Ecuador ősi művészete [Clay shamans and stone jaguars. The ancient art of Ecuador]/János Gyarmati.

2005–2006, Huszka József, a rajzoló gyűjtő [József Huszka : Collector and sketch artist]./Zoltán Fejős, Tímea Bata et al.

2006–2007, Műanyag [Plastic]/Zoltán Fejős, Zsófia Frazon et al.

2008–2009, A Másik. Évezredes hiedelmek, végzetes téveszmék, kulturális sokszínűség [The other : Ancient myths, fatal delusions, cultural diversity]. A joint exhibition of the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG), the Museum of Ethnography and the Artemisszió Foundation]/Edina Földessy, Diána Szántó et al.

2008–2009, Legendás lények, varázslatos virágok. A közkedvelt reneszánsz [Legendary beings, enchanting flowers. The Renaissance we all know and love]/Mónika Lackner, Margit Kiss et al.

2009–2011, (M)ilyenek a finnek ? – Finnország magyar szemmel [How we see the Finns ? Finland : A Hungarian perspective]/Zsuzsa Szarvas, Tímea Bata et al.

2011–2013, Nők, szőnyegek, háziipar [Women, hand-woven rugs, home industry]/Hajnalka Fülöp, Mónika Lackner.

2011, Amazónia. Utak az indiánokhoz [Amazonia. Paths to the Indians]/Vilma Főzy.

2013, Saremaa. Muhumaa és Hiiumaa. Az észt szigetvilág néprajzi képe száz évvel ezelőtt. Bán Aladár gyűjteménye. [The ethnographic images of the Estonian islands 100 years ago. The Aladár Bán collection]/Ágnes Kerezsi.

2014, Tollvarázs. Boglár Lajos hagyatéka [Charming feathers. The legacy of Lajos Boglár]/Főzy Vilma.

2014–2016, Kő kövön. Töredékek a magyar vidéki zsidóság kultúrájából [Picking up the pieces. Fragments of rural Hungarian Jewish culture]/Zsuzsa Szarvas, Tímea Bata et al.

2017, Bocskor, csizma, paduka. Kalandozás a lábbeli körül [Bocskor, boot, paduka : Adventures in footwear]/Hajnalka Fülöp, Edit Katona et al.

2022, Megérkeztünk [We have arrived]/Lajos Kemecsi, Krisztina Sedlmayr, Petra Gärtner.

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[1The survey of the first two periods (1650–1830 ; 1825–1914) of the history of ethnography, ethnology and anthropology in Hungary is based largely on explorations of the archives and recent publications by Ildikó Sz. Kristóf and János Gyarmati.

[2Originally, the first ethnographical collections were included (and literally housed) in the Hungarian National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum) in Budapest, established in 1802They were organised into a particular department and emerged from the former as an independent Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum) in 1872. 

[3From this period, the historical overview must change scope and perspective. The social and intellectual history of ethnography, ethnology and anthropology in modern Hungary has not been written yet. What follows is a concise summary of the most important scholarly activities, their institutional background and, when possible, the major influences that affected them.

[4A good number of the names of researchers mentioned here can be found in the Selected Bibliography attached to this dossier.

[5By Éva Mikos (Institute of Ethnology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

[6By Borbála Mészáros (Museum of Ethnography, Budapest).