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Canada and Hungary are both celebrating their 150th birthdays: What can each learn from the other’s example?

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Guest blog by Caleb Snider, Congress 2017 blogger

The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences brings together leading thinkers, academics, researchers, policy-makers and innovators to explore some of the world’s most challenging issues. Congress celebrates the vitality and quality of Canadian research contributions, and helps train the next generation of Canadian ideas leadership. This year’s theme “The Next 150, on Indigenous Lands" celebrates the history, legacy and achievements of the peoples and territories that make us who we are, and anticipates the boundless opportunities of the future. Organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, this year’s Congress is being hosted by Ryerson University in Toronto from May 27-June 2. Follow this series of Big Picture at #congressh blogs.

Do the nation-states of Canada and Hungary share anything beyond their modern founding in the year 1867? This was the topic up for discussion at “Nation and Narrative: Challenges Moving Forward,” a panel and roundtable discussion hosted by the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada (HSAC) on May 27. Panelists Gregor Kranjc, Steve Jobbitt, Eva Kovacs, and Derakhshan Qurban-Ali presented a diverse selection of papers on subjects including the history of post-Hapsburg Hungary, the rise of Catholic Nationalism in neighbouring post-Soviet Slovenia, and contemporary Hungarian attitudes toward refugees in the current European refugee crisis.

After their presentations, the panelists opened up the discussion to include the audience, which generated some very lively discussion. When one audience member expressed sincere doubt that Canada and Hungary share anything of substance beyond the year 1867, Professor Jobbitt (Lakehead University) pointed out that the foundation (or re-foundation) of both nations have to be put into the global context of nineteenth-century imperialism: both were junior partners in a larger imperial project, and both Canada and Hungary were the subjects of nation building as a “colonial process.” A detailed discussion of these similarities is missing from the literature, but it is precisely to further explore these comparisons that the panel was held.

Of special interest were the historic and contemporary attitudes toward refugees in Canada and Hungary. While Ms. Qurban-Ali (McGill University) described the dominant narrative in Hungary today that represents refugees as a threat to Hungarian national identity, the other panelists touched on the history of Hungarian refugees following the failed revolution of 1956. In response, one audience member brought up the notion that in 1956, the Canadian popular media celebrated the influx of Hungarian refugees, stating that they would “ennoble a young nation,” and audience and panel alike wondered where sentiments like these are in a contemporary Canada that is supposedly so welcoming to refugees. In a popular discourse where accepting refugees is so often portrayed as an act of humanitarian charity, highlighting the good done by the host country for the refugees, where is the discussion of the good that refugees bring to their host country?

TheNation and narrative: Challenges moving forward” panel discussion was part of the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada (HSAC) program at Congress 2017.  

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Congress of the Humanities and Social SciencesCongress 2017