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  • 1 Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
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Abstract

To create context, the study first recounts, in a nutshell, the emigration history of Hungarian Americans and the main features of their American integration. In addition to discussing the specific fieldwork goals and experiences, the article seeks to present the theoretical background of the fieldwork concept of the research. The author began his research in the United States in 2006, where he has been regularly returning to conduct ethnographic fieldwork ever since. From the great emigration wave that began at the end of the nineteenth century up until today, he examines the history, institutional networks, and socio-ethnographic aspects of Hungarian communities on the East Coast and in the Midwest, including acculturation, identity change, and contacts with the homeland. When developing his fieldwork concept, for his guiding principle he chose to combine the individual identity construction model with capsule theory. Hungarian American emigrants who have been forced to switch cultures have been living their lives in a “time and mentality capsule”. The part brought from the old country resides inside the capsule, while everything outside is part of the new environment. This duality can be complemented by the potential role of the local community, which directly surrounds the individual in the alien new country. Examination of this particular capsule is only possible in the field. In the course of fieldwork, the main question becomes: to what extent do the adopted patterns of behavior, the desire to meet American social expectations, and the efforts that are internally controlled and realized, allow a look into these capsules? Such fieldwork is characterized by a duality of scheduled appointments pre-arranged with prospective informants, and spontaneous field situations. In the Hungarian communities of industrial towns, fieldwork consisted predominantly (almost exclusively) of the “appointment” type of data collection, while in the case of former mining settlements on the brink of extinction, spontaneously developing ethnographic data collection was more typical. Participation in events linked to dates and venues, data collecting at these occasions, and getting acquainted with event participants for later interviewing is the third option besides the fieldwork situations mentioned above. Finally, the paper attempts to demonstrate through several examples of the ways in which fieldwork can enrich the information gained from documents with additional data, tangible memorabilia, and the memories related to them.

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