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Social Change, Dress and Identity

Observations on the Disintegration of Peasant Culture as Exemplified by Rural Women’s Clothing in Hungary from the First World War to the End of the Kádár Era Socialism

Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Author: Ágnes Fülemile

The article, based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, studies the process of the disintegration of the traditional system of peasant costume in the 20th century in Hungary in the backdrop of its socio-historic context. There is a focused attention on the period during socialism from the late 1940s to the end of the Kádár era, also called Gulyás communism. In the examined period, the wearing and abandonment of folk costume in local peasant communities was primarily characteristic of women and an important part of women’s competence and decision-making. There was an age group that experienced the dichotomy of peasant heritage and the realities of socialist modernisation as a challenge in their own lifetime – which they considered a great watershed. The author interviewed both the last stewards of tradition who continued wearing costume for the rest of their lives and those who pioneered and implemented changes and abandoned peasant costume in favor of urban dress. The liminal period of change, the character and logic of the processes and motivations behind decision-making were still accessible in memory, and current dressing practices and the folklorism phenomena of the “afterlife” of costume could still be studied in real life. The study shows that costume was the focus point of women’s aspirations, attention, and life organization, and how the life paths of strong female personalities were articulated around clothing. It also reveals that there was a high level of self-awareness and strong emotional attachment in individual relationships to clothing in the rural context, similar to – or perhaps even exceeding – the fashion-conscious, individualized urban context. Examining the role of fashion, modernization, and individual decisions and attitudes in traditional clothing systems is an approach that bridges the mostly distinct study of folk costume and the problematics of dress and fashion history research.

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Mapping regional structures as outlined and produced by a system of marriage ties

The Case of Kalotaszeg, a Reformed Presbyterian Hungarian Region in Transylvania, Romania

Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Authors: Balázs Balogh and Ágnes Fülemile

Kalotaszeg is a famous historic and ethnographic region in Transylvania (Romania) consisting of approximately 35–40 village communities. The region has raised considerable scholarly interest since its early discovery at the end of the 19th century. A constantly reoccurring focus of studies has been to outline the structure of the region. Although it was not our primary concern, when we started our social anthropology fi eldwork at the beginning of the 1990s we soon encountered the problematic issue of how to delineate the external and internal boundaries around and within this multi-ethnic and multi-religious region and how to grasp in-group and out-group relations with a special regard to the context of socio-historical structure of the population in the area. We wanted to understand what kinds of diachronic and synchronic factors stood behind the formation of various networks of human connection interpreted as regional structures.

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The paper aims to look at those community-organizing phenomena that provided alternatives to officially supported, mandatory youth activities and played a vital role in the everyday life of young people in socialist Hungary in the 1970s and 80s. The urban folk dance and music revival, the so-called táncház (dance house) movement, is highlighted. The authors argue that the dance house as a subculture with its concept of “authenticity” was able to create common identity with the intrinsic notion of oppositional stance. Parallels are drawn between sports, rock music, literature and the dance house. The process of disintegration and folkloristic discovery of traditional peasant culture in Hungary and in Transylvania, communist peasant policy, and the connections between cities and villages are discussed alongside the phenomena of revival and issues of identity.

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