Monday, March 7th 2016
16:20 – 18:20 Panel 3: Kin-State Citizenship as Identity and Experience
This paper explores how the political inclusion of non-resident Hungarians and the subsequent institutionalization of diaspora involvement after 2010 impacted the national identification of newly naturalized non-resident Hungarians in different diasporic contexts. Through the systematic analysis of semi-structured interviews, the paper investigates how citizenship as a legal institution is perceived, practiced and consumed by Hungarians living in the US, Israel, Serbia and Romania. The interviews suggest that citizenship is considered by the recipients both as a strategic/instrumental asset as well as a marker of identity. The institutionalization of non-resident citizenship and voting rights is regarded by Hungarians outside the country as the indication of the Hungarian government’s willingness to help the material and symbolic interests of non-resident Hungarians. The paper claims that Hungarians living in the neighboring countries regard Hungarian citizenship primarily as a marker of identity, while diaspora Hungarians in the US and Israel are also motivated by more pragmatic considerations. The paper also points out that the formal inclusion in the citizenry (which new members take as an official recognition of their full and equal membership in the Hungarian nation defined in ethnocultural terms) creates a sense of duty as well. Newly naturalized non-resident Hungarians consider it a moral obligation to maintain their national culture on the peripheries of the Hungarian transnation. In addition, they also regard it as a duty to participate in the Hungarian parliamentary elections. Moreover, citizenship is also considered as a valuable symbolic asset which can be instrumentalized as means of social closure. Non-resident citizenship enables ethnic Hungarians to entrench perceived ethnic boundaries and symbolically distance themselves from titular majorities in the neighboring countries, and through this, elevate their social status. Interestingly, formal and legal acknowledgement of equal membership in the nation also makes some recipients realize the differences of nationhood conceptions of members of the kin-minority and Hungarians living in the kin-state.