Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Swarthmore College

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Remains of Socialism: Memory, Nation, and the Afterlives of State Socialism in Hungary

Remains of Socialism tells the story of Hungary’s postsocialist transformations from the perspective of its “remains”: those cultural objects and discursive sites perceived to be the mere leftovers of communist rule, and thus inauthentic to both Hungary’s national tradition and its capitalist aspirations. Arguing for an understanding of national identity based not only upon positive identifications but also negative disavowals, the book demonstrates that the production of anachronism was an active and often embattled process that Hungarians used to mediate between the socialist past and the postsocialist present, history and everyday, Soviet inheritance and Western future—and in so doing, to construct the new democratic public culture through which these remains emerged as intrusive visibilities. While many scholars have focused upon memory and national history as crucial sites through which cultures in transition struggle to articulate the terms of national identity and belonging, what thus distinguishes Remains of Socialism is its focus upon the productivity of putative inauthenticities. Indeed, the battle to determine the fate of socialist remains became an arena through which competing social actors struggled not only to break free of the socialist past, but to establish the very nature of the postsocialist present. Rather than vanish into the dustbin of history, the “trash” of the socialist era thus became central to broader debates about national identity, cultural citizenship, and integration into the European Union and the global economy.