Indiana University Bloomington
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Rural Society and Folk Culture in Hungary
CEUS-U 320/U520
Ágnes Fülemile

Agrarian economy and rural existence had been a significant component of Hungary’s economic and social history. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries around 80 to 90% (depending on ethnicity) and still in the middle of the 20th century little more than 50% of the population made their living from rural activities and  crafts.  They belonged to tightly knit communities with strong feelings of loyalty and solidarity sharing and displaying common values, ideals and the different cultural expressions of “groupness”. Disintegration of traditional peasant life has been a gradual ongoing process during the 20th century up to very recently. The concept of the “folk”, reinterpretations of peasant culture played and essential role in the “invention” of East-Central European national cultures and ideologies. Movements and political parties discovered, represented, exploited and corrupted what they had meant by folk culture. The recent well-marketed touristic image of regions can heavily depend on folk art and crafts antecedents; much as the recent EU concept on regionalism re-values and reconstructs the concept of “heritage”.

            The course gives an interpretation of the social and cultural content of rural existence in Hungary in different historic periods from the Late Middle Ages up until recently. Apart from highlighting features of Hungarian folk culture there will be an emphasis on interpreting phenomena in its historic and East-Central European regional context. A general model of East Central European peasant village will be presented as a physical space for a functioning community of people with special structures and institutions. Topics for discussion will include the following: social stratification, mobility, prestige, network of human connections, religion and identity-issues, forms of subsistence, settlement patterns, household –structures, kinship, gender roles, value-systems, strategies, mentalities,  cultural expressions, art forms etc. The readings represent various fields of social, economic and cultural history, anthropology, ethnography and European ethnology.

            (The course material is partly based on the field‑experience of the instructor; field-photos will be used for illustration.)

            No prerequisite studies are necessary.


Midterm Exam:           5-6 pp take home essay pp (25 %)

Final Exam:                 5-6 pp take home essay (25%)

                                    10‑l2 pp term paper (35%)

Seminar work: class activity, reading reports, one seminar presentation (15 %)