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May 5, 2021 at 10:12 am

Waterbury Awarded Fulbright to Study Hungary and Ethnic Identity in the European Neighborhood

D. Myra Waterbury, leading a seminar

D. Myra Waterbury (Photo by Robin Hecker)

From Ohio University News

Dr. Myra Waterbury was recently named a Fulbright Scholar and will be headed to Budapest in the spring of 2022 to conduct research on Hungary’s disparate populations.

Waterbury, professor of Political Science at Ohio University, says that “Hungary can be understood as existing in a state of ‘divided nationhood’ in which the government must navigate a long-standing commitment to kin-minorities — communities of ethnic kin living as national minorities in neighboring countries — as well as manage its relationship to diaspora communities generated by earlier waves of emigration and to communities of more recent emigrants within the European Union.”

Her Fulbright project is titled “Divided Nationhood and Multiple Membership in the European Neighborhood: A Comparative Analysis of Hungary’s Diaspora, Emigrant, and Kin-Minority Engagement Policies.”

Developments within the past Decade

Waterbury will focus her work on developments over the past decade because 2010 is when the current governing administration of Hungary introduced a new intensification of policies toward kin-minorities and began to more deeply formalize relations with diaspora communities in Europe and elsewhere.

“As part of this intensification and deepening, Hungary has allowed ethnic Hungarians in other countries to obtain non-resident passports, and has expanded voting rights to non-resident passport holders. This is also the period of time when Hungary experienced an increase in emigration after the initial spike following Hungary’s joining the European Union in 2004,” she said.

“More and more it is becoming clear that the European political, social, and economic space is one in which there is both increased transnationalism and, simultaneously, increased competition between groups. Populist discourses and economic protectionism, driven by anxieties around mobility, migration, and demographic change, both feed off and contribute to inter-group competition. Even groups within the same divided nation may compete with one another for resources and attention, depending on where groups are located, both physically, and in terms of their position in a hierarchy of economic interest and symbolic importance to states, parties, and political elites.

“Given all these developments, this seems to be the ideal moment to explore the deeper institutionalization of ethnic and national identities across borders and how this interacts with the tensions around mobility, demographic change, and diversity present in Europe today,” she says.

Forming a Framework for ‘Multiple Membership’

“My findings from previous work suggest that there is often tension and tradeoffs in a state’s response to different types of external national populations, with political and institutional commitments to one type impacting the scope and content of commitments to another,” says Waterbury. “However, I have so far only been able to explore this outcome in relation to kin-state policies and emigrant engagement.”

At the Minority Studies Institute at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Waterbury will further her efforts to develop a framework that she terms “multiple membership,” which describes “the ways in which external populations are connected to and may benefit from — or be constrained by — cultural, economic, and political ties to a homeland or kin-state, such as Hungary.”

She notes that with many countries facing similar transnational challenges, her work can inform the issues of physical mobility, political mobilization, potential integration, and
community-building for other populations living as “othered minorities struggling for rights and recognition in their states of residence.”

“While Professor Waterbury focuses on Hungary, her research is likely to provide insights regarding the general relationships between the European nation states and their external communities that have increased considerably in size following the Schengen agreement in 1985, which aimed to create a Europe without borders,” said Dr. Florenz Plassmann, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of Economics and Political Science.

Waterbury, whose primary research language is Hungarian, said that “with additional research, I will be able to add engagement with diaspora groups to this framework, and expand my understanding of emigrant engagement and the way it is impacted by diaspora and kin-state policies. This would result in a novel and truly transnational study that has the potential to fill some major gaps in the literature on states and the ties of political, economic, and cultural membership that transcend state borders.”

“The Fulbright Political Science program is highly competitive, and it is a great testament to Professor Waterbury’s expertise that she received this fellowship,” said Plassmann. “Professor Waterbury’s research on how Hungary’s policies affect its national communities beyond its borders is particularly relevant at a time in which migration flows are moving the world further beyond the nation-state.”


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