László Levente Balogh: Shifting meanings in the Hungarian national narrative of sacrifice and victimhood
The study traces the transformation of the meaning of ‘áldozat’ from sacrifice to victim through certain events of Hungarian history, from the Hungarian defeat of the 1848–49 war of independence and the outbreak of the First World War as reflected in contemporary sources; to historical interpretations of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon and the German occupation. The author reconstructs the process in which the ‘passive turn’ of the term resulted in a shift from passion to rhetorics. The argument is supported by examples such as paintings of historical subjects, as well as the past and present practice of erecting commemorative monuments, as these are the most telling manifestations of the culture of memory and politically informed interpretations of history. From the nineteenth century onwards, paintings and monuments of historical subjects have become medial constructions which were believed to represent the foundations of national identity, and as such, they are peerless source material for the analysis of the changing concept of collective sacrifice and victimhood.
Zsolt K. Horváth: Illness, Psychopatologies and Structures of Temporality. Memory and Future after the Great War: The Forgotten Books of Halbwachs and Minkowski
Over the past two decades, humanities and social sciences have been increasingly preoccupied with the question of memory. It has by now become clear that the practices of memory which became wide-spread in the 1970s in connection with the trauma of the Second World War, and especially the Holocaust, are perceivably different from those after the Great War, even though scholarship in this field usually goes only as far back as Maurice Halbwachs’s seminal work published in 1925. Does the concept and practice of memory mean the same today as in the post-First World War period? Can the proliferating research in the field of memory can reconstruct the structures of temporality in this period? Responding to Eugène Minkowski’s 1933 work discussing the phenomenology of time through the psychopathology of soldiers surviving the Great War, the present study adopts Minkowski’s focus on the ‘future’ and argues that, in addition to ‘memory’, the analysis of this period’s structures of temporality must also consider the concept and experience of ‘future’. This fresh approach brings together Halbwachs and Minkowski, two scholars associated with Henri Bergson’s philosophy, both arguing for the primacy of seemingly disparate experiences of time.
Éva Kovács: Trianon or the “Traumatic Turn” in Hungarian Historiography
The study examines the escalation of the Trianon trauma, a concept that has been neglected in scholarship on the discourse on public history and politics of memory in the last few decades. The author first explores how trauma has by now become one of the most definitive concepts in Hungarian historiography due to the influence of Western trends. This is followed by an examination of the relationship between politics of memory regarding the Treaty of Trianon and the Holocaust. In the second part of the study, Kovács attempts to trace how the social anomie resulting from the enormous losses suffered in the First World War was channelled into the cult of Trianon. The study suggests that this cult sublimated not only the loss of territory, but all the grief and suffering caused by the war. Since ethnocentrism and anti-Semitism has comprised an inherent part of the cult from the beginning, the historiography and collective memory of the Treaty of Trianon is inseparable from the history of Hungarian nationalism and the Holocaust. However, the “traumatic turn” is, in fact, no less than an attempt to separate the two. The author argues that if the current trauma concept allows the Treaty of Trianon prevail over the memory of Holocaust in Hungarian collective memory, it may revive interwar sentiments of revenge and methodological nationalism, which will, in turn, further impede the understanding of social and political historical processes.
Nóra Séllei: The Female Body as Victim and Sacrificial Object – Polcz Alaine’s One Woman in the War: Hungary, 1944–45
Alaine Polcz’s autobiographical text (entitled in Hungarian: Asszony a fronton) breaks the silence that covers up rape cases committed by the soldiers of the Soviet Red Army in Hungary. Herself a rape victim, Alaine Polcz, however, goes beyond this particular historical event in her text, and raises the questions of wartime rape in general and that of violance against women in civil life. Applying Elizabeth Grosz’s image of the Möbius strip to express the relationship between the body and the mind, Bernhard Giesen’s term victimhood, Simone de Beauvoir’s the One and the Other, Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject and her analysis of the cultural icon of Stabat Mater, and also relying on some ancient Greek myths of rape and violence against women, the study argues that wartime rape can be seen as an act in which women function both as victims and sacrificial objects, and that the underlying cultural unconcious informing these acts derives from the bifurcation of women as the Biblical Eve and Virgin Mary, or the Madonna and the Whore. Within the framework of this cultural concept, the female body is considered always already filthy, and as such defiled and complicit in rape. As a result, rape victims are regarded as desecrated and are expelled from the very community which idolised them before the rape, a main reason why the silence surrounding rape cases is almost impossible to break. Polcz Alaine’s text, however, moves beyonf the context of war, and creates explicit connections between wartime and marital rape and abuse of women in general, thus turning her text into a general exploration of the notions informing the structure of violance against women.