The paper focuses on the case study of a settlement in the immediate vicinity of the Hungarian capital, which became nationally recognized in the second half of the 20th century through the staging of the community’s wedding customs, known as Wedding at Ecser. Over the decades, the element lifted out of the local lifeworld – and ultimately constructed – has become linked with various community meanings and interpretive structures, through the examination of which the underlying historical, economic, and socio-cultural processes are being presented. Not only has the cultural relic – initially constructed by and through external actors – appreciated for local society, it soon developed into a central element of self-representation. At the same time, the cyclically growing interest in the staged custom and the repeated re-articulation of the wedding in new ways were closely linked with the social changes of the given period and the transformation of the local community and also dependent on the nature of power discourses at the local level. However, the wedding became not only an economic, ideological, political resource for the local community but also a valid meaning structure beyond the local level. This study pays special attention to discussions of the role that this phenomenon – which has nearly 60 years of history and many layers of meaning – may have played in the heritagization practices of the 21st century. There is particular emphasis on how the wedding as a heritage element and – more broadly – heritagization are linked to local experiences of a changing rurality.
In 1948, in the year it came to power, the Hungarian Communist Party began building its legitimacy, using the occasion of the centenary, by appropriating the legacy of the Revolution of 1848. The need for a revolutionary transformation of culture heralded the advent of the scientific materialist worldview. The popular education system, created as a channel of the cultural revolution, conveyed the findings of the various branches of science and arts, combined with the rhetoric of political propaganda, to the “working people.” Revolutionism, which the Marxist view of history elevated to prominence, soon gained ground in the interpretation of Hungarian literary history via the compilation of “progressive literary traditions.” Public educators' literary presentations in villages and cities, as well as articles and cheap publications produced in large quantities all served to promote this central principle.
The author examines the representation and interpretation of János Arany's life and work in various textual and visual popular education products. Certain junctures and directions in Arany's life, used as guidelines of the presentations, were highlighted in the image of Arany mediated by filmstrips and newspaper articles to make him one of the “poets of freedom.” Publications intended for the cultural and political education of “working people” set out the way in which to relate to the poet and the framework for interpreting his writings. Through the Arany poems that popular educators employed in scientific education, the author points out the way in which textual and visual representations became carriers of added content in a given context and a possible means of the “rural class struggle.”