The Hungarian border spectacle: Migration, repression and solidarity in two Hungarian border cities

June 19, 2017

CEU CPS research fellow, Celine Cantat, published a paper that reflects on the politics of spectacularisation that underpin the government of migrants and refugees by Hungarian authorities and on the extent to which solidarity initiatives with migrants and refugees can challenge dominant anti-migrant narratives in the country.

First, the paper examines the deployment of a ‘border spectacle’ by the Hungarian government. It explores the way in which a hyper-visible spectacle of migration is produced, which establishes particular representations of the Hungarian state as protector of a national public and articulates a discourse of desirability and order that justifies an exclusionary agenda. The paper also reflects on the way in which these hyper-visible ‘events’ authorise the deployment of more quiet processes of negligence and destitution towards refugees and asylum-seekers. Indeed, while the spectacle produced by the Hungarian government presents itself as a series of isolated ‘performances’, they in fact stand in continuum with a range of less visible practices that directly contribute to the unweaving of the social, economic and political ties migrants and refugees may build in the country.

Against this background, the paper moves on to explore solidarity movements with migrants and refugees that have emerged in two Hungarian border cities, Szeged and Pécs, and assesses the extent to which they have counteracted the official anti-migrant narrative set through the border spectacle. The paper argues that a key way in which pro-migrant movements in Hungary have destabilised dominant framings of migration as an obscene spectacle and a crisis has been through a de-centring of migration. In other words, it is by asserting connections between migrant-related struggles and other struggles that volunteers and activists have at times successfully challenged the discourses of crisis and the processes of Othering deployed by the government in relation to migrants and other vulnerable groups.

The Hungarian border spectacle: Migration, repression and solidarity in two Hungarian border cities (Download)