2015 Autumn

Erasmus courses

BA film minor courses

MA courses


Title: Everyday Life in Socialist Hungary

Code: BBN-KOM-291#1.3 for BA, BMA-MEDD-601.E for MA students

Time, place: Tuesday, 09:30-11:00, room 251

Course convenor: Ferenc Hammer, hammer@policy.hu, https://btk.academia.edu/FerencHammer

Availability: BA, MA

Type: Seminar

Course description:

The basic premise of the course is that the cultural embeddedness of the East Central European region’s political changes has turned out to be crucial, in terms of the nature and direction of those changes, let them be Stalinist takeovers, socialist reforms, democratic transitions, democratic consolidations or nationalist upheavals. Culture is a key concept in this course – that is, collectively created meanings people associate with their life. Artefacts, rituals and images of everyday life, and their qualitative-anthropological interpretations have occupied a central position in this approach to understand the region’s present and recent past. Students will be exposed to comparative (regional) empirical research results focusing on various cultural studies topics, as well as to key concepts regarding the roots of the region’s paradoxical cultural-historical-political development. Classes will cover issues, such as everyday strategies of power exercise in communism, changes in cultural politics, media history of the period, popular culture, consumption, a critical history of jeans, nonconformist subcultures, etc. Each student is expected to prepare a one- or two-page long position paper (based on the literature or on special assignments) for each class during the semester. There will not be separate student presentations in the class. The final paper is expected to be 3500 words in length on a topic agreed with me beforehand. I expect the hard copy of the paper to be sent to me by January 16th 1 PM, and also I expect students to make a presentation on January 19th, 3 PM (its details will be discussed). At the last class there will be a test on the course readings and the lectures. The composition of the students’ grades will be made up of the following items: 35 % position papers, 35% final test, 20% final paper, 10% class participation.

As a novelty in class requirements at my department, I expect those students using laptops, tablets, smart phones, or at the time of the preparation of this syllabus, unknown form of electronic device for taking notes, to turn off the internet access of their gadget during class.

Class 0: Course description and requirements (September 9th)

Class 1: Everyday life – The career of a concept (September 16th)

Simmel, Schütz, Goffman, Berger & Luckmann, Bakhtin. The taken-for-granted reality as a subject of sociological inquiry. Ethnomethodology. Social constructivism. Micro-histories. The usefulness and limitations of the concept in the understanding of life under Communism. A short presentation about Tibor Fischer’s Under the Frog (this novel will serve as a general reference volume for the course).

Readings: (1) Karal Ann Marling. Nixon in Moscow. The Kitchen Debate. In: Ben Highmore (ed.) The Everyday Life Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. pp. 101-107. http://lcst3789.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/highmore-the-everyday-life-reader.pdf (2) Sándor Tar. “Happy Christmas.” https://mega.co.nz/#!o9MAUDrb!LUQOEZKHj128e9PGMqsGyODf6cCiSeLUVagplRZVxrI

Please read both pieces and write me a 500-word composition on the usefulness and limitations of the concept of everyday life in the understanding Communism.

Class 2: Continuities and disruptions: Cultural and political traditions in Eastern and Central Europe. (September 23rd)

Historical regions in the past and present day. Different relations between state and society. Cultural slopes and borders. Culture and history. Historical backwardness and modernization strategies. Roles of everyday life in making history.

Reading: Mihály Vajda. “East Central European Perspectives.” In: John Keane, ed. Civil Society and the State. London: Verso, 1988. pp. 333-360. https://mega.co.nz/#!No1BgDSS!FBS3fQ7RdJPM7a0U7IjICTIW7FbepjCjEvGy7gWKneY

Suggested readings: Gerard Delanty The Historical Regions of Europe: Civilizational Backgrounds and Multiple Routes to Modernity, Historická Sociologie, 1–2/2012 http://historicalsociology.cz/cele-texty/1-2-2012/delanty.pdf

Jenő Szűcs, The three historical regions of Europe, Acta Historica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 29 /1983/ pp. 131-184.) http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/42555425?uid=3738216&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21104703431473

Read the pp. 340-352 page section of the Vajda text (of course, I cannot stop you if you want to read the whole chapter). When you read it, don’t forget: It was published in 1988, a bit before the regime change. Based on the literature above please compose a 500-word paper about the following question: What are the defining principles of the categories of East Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Western Europe?

Class 3: Technologies of control and everyday submission and/or resistance in the Eastern Bloc (September 30th)

Hegemony and resistance before 1989. Planned economy and its unplanned consequences. Camouflage, theft, “umbulda”, and corruption. Instability and uncertainty as power technologies. State propaganda, television, communication and isolation.

Reading: Ádám Bodor. “The Outpost.” A short story. In: The Kiss. 20th Century Hungarian Short Stories. Budapest: Corvina, 1993. pp. 311-330.


Please submit a class paper with the topic: Means and modes of exercising power over people in a dictatorship based on the short story “The Outpost”.

Class 4 The 1956 revolution from below (October 7th)

Those glorious two weeks or so. The everyday experience of terror and surveillence.

Film to watch: Kolorádó Kid, dir. by András B. Vágvölgyi. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0856796/ Guest speaker: Director András B. Vágvölgyi.

The film will be screened on October 9th Thursday 6PM at the Central European University’s Auditorium, entrance at the corner of Zrínyi and Nádor streets. The screening will be followed by a talk by Vágvölgyi and Chief Archivist András Mink of the Open Society Archives, renowned expert on the period. Please attend the screening, it will be counted as a regular class. Please watch the movie and make a usual written composition for the following class and send it to me about the topic: The everyday experience of the 1956 revolution and the subsequent retaliations. This is the FB page for Kolorádó Kid, mostly in Hungarian.


Class 5 Party under the floorboard: Private and public feasts (October 14th)

Official holidays and mass entertainment. The role of sports. Christmas and Easter revisited. Private feasts: Changing patterns of family celebrations. Nightlife in socialism. The házibuli experience, as a model of self-government and homemade public life.

Reading: Brown, Karl 2008: Dance Hall Days: Jazz and Hooliganism in Communist Hungary, 1948-1956. Trondheim Studies on East European Cultures & Societies, 26 http://www.fulbright.hu/book1/karlbrown.pdf

Suggested reading: https://www.academia.edu/233675/_Necro-Utopia_The_Politics_of_Indistinction_and_the_Aesthetics_of_the_Non-Soviet_

Class 6 Underground artists‘ circles in Communist Hungary (October 21st)

Guest speaker: Dr. Brigitta Iványi Bitter, curator. (No required reading for this class).

(October 23-November 2: Fall Break)

Class 7 A critical history of Blue Jeans in socialism (November 4th)

“I’m not concerned about Wild-Western-type trousers, beards, or haircuts” – János Kádár, Communist Party Chief Secretary, 1967. Changing meanings of jeans in the life world of socialism: Production, consumption, regulation, representation, and identity.

Reading: Ferenc Hammer: ‚Sartorial Manoeuvres In the Dusk: Blue Jeans in Socialist Hungary.‘ (Eds.: F. Trentmann and K. Soper). Citizenship and Consumption. London: Palgrave. 2008. https://www.academia.edu/5012331/Sartorial_Manoeuvres_in_the_Dusk_Blue_Jeans_in_Socialist_Hungary Suggested reading: Reading: Malcolm Barnard. Fashion As Communication. Ch. 6. London and New York: Routledge, 1996. pp. 121-144.

Class: 8: Class excursion and participant observation in Atlantis (I) (November 11th)

Playing Gazdálkodj okosan! (Do smart business! – the socialist version of Monopoly) in the class. Comparing the experience with Monopoly. Political messages in the game.

Reading: Johan Huizinga. Homo Ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1970. pp. 1-27. http://bookzz.org/md5/4D149675532B04F5CCC1F789A3F68B50 Please write me a usual homework highlighting major points of the chapter. Plus: Game rules.

Class 9: Class excursion and participant observation in Atlantis (II) (November 18th) Walking tour in Budapest to examine physical remains of the previous political regimes. Students will receive individual or small group assignments regarding particular buildings, sculptures etc.

Class 10: Comprehending the magic, (November 25th)

The chronicles of feelings of “no future” in the 1980s. Explaining the unforeseeable regime change: Liberating performative speech acts, conspiracies, bandwagons, snowballs, tightropes? The role of surprise in the regime change.

Reading: Timur Kuran. Private Truths, Public Lies. The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. pp. 118-127, 205-221, 261-288. http://libgen.org/search.php?req=Private+Truths%2C+Public+Lies&open=0&view=simple&phrase=1&column=def

Class 11 This class will be developed upon the request/interest of the class (December 2nd)

Reading: TBA

Class 12. Final test (December 9th)


Title: Approaches to Space

Code: BBN-KOM-291#1.7 for BA students; BMA-MEDD-601.3 for MA.

Time, place: Monday 10.30 to 12.00; Múzeum krt. 6 – 8., 2nd floor room 251.

Course convenor: Gabriella Szigethy

Availability: BA, MA

Type: Seminar

Course description:

This class is a tentative sequel to my earlier Visual Strategies in Modernism that I offered for seven consecutive semesters before this coming 2014/15 Autumn semester.

My experiences with Hungarian and international students in these recent past years have persuaded me to try to move on and offer a more localized, a more geographical insight into the differences that have become so apparent in our approaches to Modernist strategies, visual or otherwise. In this postcolonial intellectual and political climate it may be more rewarding now to have a closer look at our different, personalized experiences and locate them in the context of a language which, in this class, we all speak as a second language and which acts as our lingua franca today.

Thus, my intention in this class is to bring together as many geographically determined literary, political and visual stories as possible and try to have them told in an appropriate and appropriated English. My stories will certainly come from uncanonical genres or the uncanonical adaptations of otherwise canonical instances (Hungarian crime fiction in the 1970’s and 80’s for example) and the untold political and social problems of this country. Hopefully, the students of this class will come up with similarly untold stories.

The reading list of the class will be available at the beginning of the semester and will be completed at our first class with additions from the students.


Title: Middle Eastern Women, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Words

Code: BBN-KOM-291#1/5 for BA, BMA-MEDD-601/C for MA students

Time, Place: Wednesday 17.00-18.30 room 42 terem

Course convenor: Basak Ergun

Availability: BA, MA

Type: Seminar

Course description:

Women’s status in the Middle East has always been a crucial and a sensitive topic. Muslim women became the center of attention especially in academia, politics and in daily lives, even gained more importance since September 11 tragedy. Muslim women symbolized the weak, oppressed and voiceless victims who need to be rescued by West from the barbaric Muslim men. The visibility of patriarchal community and forced marriage and honor crimes inevitably contribute to the Western construction of the oriental ‘other’. Muslim women’s dressing, more specifically speaking, her body has been an area of negotiations between modernization and westernization as well as an area of the counter responses to modernization, symbolizing the religious and cultural identities.

These have been a dilemma for Muslim women either living in their home countries in Middle East or living as immigrants in Western countries. Being a Muslim woman has not been easy in contemporary world as there are many complexities involved. They have to face with two contradictory expectations. They are expected to obey with the Islamic and traditional rules either by the political regime or culture. On the other hand, they are also faced with Western prejudice or discrimination because of their Muslim identity, their way of clothing and customs. Besides different feminist movements among Muslim women, which sometimes have been criticized by Western Feminism, with the Arab Spring and other occupy movements that took place in Middle East countries, Muslim women were again at the scene with their bodies and voices. This course will not be only based on Muslim women. Jewish women living in Middle East cannot be excluded. A comparative study in this seminar is believed to generate a comprehensive understanding, focusing more on dialogical commonalities, rather than discriminative differences.


Title: In-between Apocalypse and Promised land: Culture and Politics of emotions.

Code: BBN-KOM-291#1/4 for BA students; BMA-MEDD-601/D for MA students

Time, Place: Monday 12.00-13.30 room 42

Course convenor: Basak Ergun

Availability: BA, MA

Type: Seminar

Course description:

We can list variety of emotions: fear, rage, envy, disgust, love, joy, happiness and many others. And also we can make groupings with these emotions such as basic emotions, aesthetic emotions, nationalist emotions, religious, political emotions and many others.

The point in this course in relation with ‘affect theories’ is to understand and study how various emotions shape both culture and politics. Even to understand how emotions themselves become a source of cultural and political knowledge.

Affect studies have grown out of different academic fields and recently been extended to many other disciplines such as culture studies, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, political science, media studies etc. Affect studies investigate how the emotional responses are formulated both on the individual and community levels. “Politics of feelings/emotions” is an attempt to explore how affect mediates between individual and collective levels of subjectivisation and identification, creates action.

Among many varieties of emotions this course specifically will focus on ‘fear and anger’, ‘pain’ as strongly influential emotions affecting current political, social movements and relations. Especially since we are living within an increased pace of war, terror and ordinary criminality currently, the primary emotions/feelings underling the current situation and political actions seem to be centered around ‘fear and anger’ and inescapably ‘pain’. May be just like Frederic Jameson stated as “history is what hurts,” the twentieth century (and the twentieth-first Century) has been a history of pain.

On the other side, even paradoxically, we also live in an era of ‘promised happiness’. We are living in between a real land of fear and pain from where we are supposed to escape and an illusionary promised land where we are supposed to rush into. Or even if can’t escape it, we have to stay blind, deaf and numb, sedated and tranquilized but at the same continuously turned into wounded and vulnerable subjects by therapy culture. While talking about affect and subjectivities, it is impossible not to examine the ‘experience of modernity’. Does it make sense to understand modernity as an experience and different kind’s emotions and feelings?


Title: Drawing Identities and Painting Geographies: Visual and Narrative Construction of Enemies, Friends and Allies

Code: BBN-KOM-291#1/6 for BA, BMA-MEDD-601/B for MA students

Time, Place: Monday 15.30-17. 00, room 251

Course convenor: Basak Ergun

Availability: BA, MA

Type: Seminar

Course description:

This course aims to provide some theoretical understanding of how and why both as individuals and states we need to have enemies, friends and allies. With an interdisciplinary approach, from psychoanalysis to political psychology, from geography to culture and media studies, we will try to examine how enemies has been created, constructed, what kind of emotions tried to be evoked with these images. While creating violent, barbaric, irrational identities are being created, the same processes were also used for creating imaginary geographies. These geographies were not only violent geographies, as the image/stereotype of the other is not only based on hostility. While positive imaginary geographies like romanticized Paris or Rome can be created, negative imaginary geographies like diseased and barbaric African, violent Latin American geographies, or highly sexualized South Asian geographies can be created either by literature, tourism, politics and especially by media. Many other kinds of geographies with convenient identities belonging to these places can be counted. Sometimes some geographies could also mean both fear and desire, like construction of oriental countries with 19th century women traveler writes, which can be characterized by dessert passions while at the same time their male colleagues were creating infantile, backward, in-humanist, irrational and violent places on the same geographies. What about Geographies of care, responsibility, empathy, justice and morality? How does creation of imaginary geographies and identities affect how much we care or not care, whom do we care or not to care for? Mass slave suicides proposed by some Abolitionists in US was a way to freedom? How can we read the World Bank’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Summers’ proposal to a colleague in an internal memo: “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the Less Developed Countries (LDCs)?” And how can we explain the drowning of thousands of refugees at Mediterranean or Australian Coast while trying to escape from threat of death or violence?


Title: Journalismus Praxis

Language: German

Code: Erasm_Komm:01

Time, place: TBA

Course convenor: Károly Vörös T.

Availability: BA, MA

Type: Seminar

First class: TBA

Journalism course in German with ex chief editor of daily newspaper called Népszabadság.