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The trauma that never was? Politics of memory, cultural trauma, everyday ethnicity: Trianon and the Holocaust in historical perspective

April 1, 2016 -
12:00pm to 1:15pm
Encina Hall West, Room 219

In Hungary-- the country where a significant group of Jewish origin survived the Holocaust, and as such are a par excellence traumatized group--the genocide against Jews were soon juxtaposed with a supposedly Hungarian, national trauma, the dismemberment of the country at the end of WWI, with the Peace Treaty of Trianon. As both of these events were pushed to the periphery of historical consciousness during most of the Communist period, their presence in the public sphere was often seen as revelatory, and part of the symbolic change of regime. But increasing political polarization brought about a polarization of regimes of memory too--the Holocaust soon became associated with post-Communist, cosmopolitan liberalism (however paradox the concept could be), and Trianon with true national sentiment. After the millennium they emerged as parallel and exclusive traumata, both of which should be faced and dealt with as national traumas in order to heal the country’s deep political divide. In this talk, I intend to challenge this commonplace understanding of parallel traumata, focusing on whether Trianon can be interpreted as a social trauma at all? Based on extensive research on everyday ethnicity in the interwar era and with the help of the concept of cultural trauma (Jeffrey Alexander) I argue that despite affecting hundreds of thousands of people, the consequences of Hungary’s dismemberment were hardly enough to generate lasting traumatic experiences, at least not on a scale that would allow to understand it as a homogeneous social experience.
Gábor Egry is Head of the Research Department and Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Political History in Budapest, Hungary.  He holds a PhD from Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest. Egry is an historian whose research interests include nationalism, everyday ethnicity, identity politics, economic history, memory politics, gastronomy and nationalism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. He has held fellowships from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Bucharest, and Jena, among others. He is the principal investigator of the research project: Negotiating post-imperial transitions, 1918-1925. A comparative study of local and regional transitions from Austria-Hungary to the successor states, funded by the Hungarian National Research Fund. 
This event is open to Stanford affiliates.
Photo credit: Fortepan

Event Sponsor: 
CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
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