The “Magyar Face Debate” Cover Image

A „magyar arc vita”.
The “Magyar Face Debate”

Racial Thinking in fin-de-siècle Hungarian Ethnography and Anthropology

Author(s): Emese Lafferton
Subject(s): History, Cultural history, History of ideas
Published by: KORALL Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület
Keywords: anthropology; the nation's self-definition; hungarian ethnography; racial thinking

Summary/Abstract: This paper recovers the “Magyar face debate” raging among ethnographers, anthropologists and public figures in the long decade between 1890 and 1903, a period which began with the preparation for the 1896 Millennium Exhibition and ended in the aftermath of the 1900 Paris World Exhibition (accompanied by various international scientific congresses). These events were of great national importance and provided scientists and politicians with unique possibilities to contribute to the nation’s self-definition and representation. The Magyar face debate also constituted an important episode in a long series of cross-disciplinary attempts to define race and ethnicity and to reflect on multiethnic nationhood. By discussing relevant aspects of the histories of ethnography and anthropology in the Dualist era, the paper studies the potential political role of these disciplines in nation building and explores what kind of racial thinking they gave rise to. Affected by the specific socio-political conditions of the ethnically most diverse country of contemporary Europe, the disciplinary trajectories of Hungarian ethnography and anthropology seem to have diverged from the models offered by the historiography in the British, French, and German contexts. The paper argues that the pluralistic, predominantly cultural and strongly integrative ethnographic tradition that prevailed in Hungary in the last decades of the nineteenth century did not notable wane and shift towards a biological, hierarchical and racialist thinking before the First World War.

  • Issue Year: 2015
  • Issue No: 62
  • Page Range: 116-149
  • Page Count: 34
  • Language: Hungarian