Csángó unchained: minoritised nation-building in the Hungarian Táncház revival

Kay, Kirsty Ann (2020) Csángó unchained: minoritised nation-building in the Hungarian Táncház revival. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This PhD investigates the effects of transborder ethnic nation-building strategies on national identity through the táncház (dance house) movement, a folk-dance revival in Hungary. Through a multi-sited and historical anthropological approach, I question the analytical scope traditionally used within the study of ethnicity and nationalism to understand how national identities are formulated in-between the personal and political spheres. In order to do this, I shift the analytical lens to focus on themes of minoritisation within national culture, that is, the everyday lived identities that are forged around a sense of displacement from the national homeland. In approaching the study of nationhood from this perspective, I investigate the ways in which ethnicity is negotiated in embodied and emotional spheres of everyday life as a mobilising event in the production of national categories.

Hungary is a valuable case study through which to explore the the rise of ethnic nationalism in the twenty-first century. Since transition from state socialism, successive Hungarian governments have pursued a state form based on its ethnic makeup, pursuing policies and rhetorical stances that imagine the nation in ethnic terms that include its co-ethnic minorities living outside its borders. Through a transsovereign nation-building strategy, Hungarian governments pursue nation-building policies that reach out to their external minorities whilst not seek territorial reunification. The táncház movement is a cultural form of transsovereign nation-building that connects the folk traditions of the minorities with the majority culture, and so proves a useful locus for the study of minoritisation within nation-building.

I undertook a multi-sited, historically informed ethnography of one minority whose dances are performed within the táncház movement—the Csángó. The Csángó occupy a liminal space within the Hungarian ethnic makeup, and so within their traditional culture it is possible to see the complexities of the Hungarian national imagination. I approach participation in the Csángó style of táncház as a territorially situated practice of collective memory, and in doing so present how individuals physically experience Csángó minority culture and how they contextualise those experiences within national frameworks of history and territory. In exploring these themes, I show that ethnicity is mobilised within a much more personal sphere of signification than can be seen through public, political forms of nationalism. Through my findings, I argue that rather than creating a unified ethnic nation, the transsovereign nation-building strategy creates an ambiguous form of national identity that serves to engender a sense of minoritisation amongst its citizens. This has broader implications for the study of political mobilisations around notions of culture, the politics of memory and the interplay between urban and rural in modern society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Nationalism, ethnicity, minority nationalism, Hungary, Budapest, Transylvania, Csángó, táncház, dance house, folk dance, folklore, ethnography, liminality, collective memory, heritage, nomadism, post-socialism, populism.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GR Folklore
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Supervisor's Name: Varga, Dr Zsuzsanna
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 9 June 2022
Depositing User: Dr Kirsty A. Kay
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81431
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2020 09:05
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2021 18:49
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81431

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year