History

International Association of Hungarian Studies (formerly International Association of Hungarian Philology) was born as a result of the recognition that Hungarian Philology, or more broadly, Hungarian Studies, had become an international academic discipline, similar to other disciplines that focus on the study of a given language and literature, along with the study of national civilizations, such as German Studies or Turkish Studies. Each national culture contributes to the common human culture, within which it stands for original values and characteristics, the study of which is common human interest. This is the basic idea according to which the scholars engaged in Hungarian Studies worldwide established the association. Due to the repeated urge by numerous scholars working on Hungarian Studies in various countries, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences initiated the establishment of the association in 1977. The Academy invited nearly a hundred Hungarian and non-Hungarian scholars to participate in the foundation meeting in Nyíregyháza on August 27th, 1977. This was the venue where the association was established, passed its constitution and elected its governing bodies: Bo Wickman as President, Tibor Klaniczay as General Secretary and Miklós Béládi as Deputy Secretary-General. This is how the association came about, and was set out to bring together scholars of Hungarian Studies from various countries and with varied research orientation. The association thus draws on the tradition and operational modes of other previously established associations with similar goals. The association enables regular information exchange between scholars from different countries, distribution of research results and thus contributes to the non-biased exploration of the Hungarian language, literature, ethnology and culture. With the establishment of the association, Hungarian Studies became part of the international scientific network coordinated by UNESCO. After its establishment, the association applied for membership of Fédération Internationale des Langues et Littératures Modernes, the highest governing organ of international associations of philological orientation. Having appointed that the association qualifies with the standards of intrenational scientific association, FILLM registered the International Association of Hungarian Studies as its 20th member organization in 1979. Thus, the association became one of the intrenational scientific associations approved and enlisted by UNESCO.

During its 30-year lifespan, the profile of the Association has gone through many changes, as a reflection of the constantly changing cultural, political and ideological premises. The primary goal behind the establishemnt of the Association was to turn a national discipline into an international one. The political and ideological atmosphere of the late 1970s, however, imposed many restrictions on the the nature of this newly gained internationality. These restrictions influenced several factors, including the very definition of ’Hungarian Studies’, for instance in the sense of deciphering what disciplines and research traditions should or could be included. At the time, the definition excluded such “politically dangerous disclipines” as history or social studies. The cultural-political premises had also an impact on the structure and nature of the decision-making the association adopted, with the role of the President – a non-Hungarian – being rather a representative one, in contrast to the Hungarian General Secretary. The structural make-up of the Association, the distribution of power between the roles of Hungarian and non-Hungarian members is a reflection of the cultural-political ideals of socialist Hungary, where scientific or cultural self-interpretation was not an issue. During the last couple of years, however, it has become all the more evident that answering the question: “What is ’Hungarian’?” is possible only through intercultural exchanges; such dialogical processes that form the ground for a kind of Hungarian self-knowledge. As regards the Intrenational Association of Hungarian Studies, this means the realization that the presence and role of non-Hungarians within the Association and its activities should be all the more influential.

A prominent form of activity is the Congress of Hungarian Studies, organized every five years and providing a forum for scholars engaged in Hungarian Studies from different countries and continents. The first congress was held in Budapest in 1981. Since then, there have been congresses in Vienna (1986), Szeged (1991), Rome (1996), Jyväskylä (2001) and Debrecen (2006). The congress of the year 2011 will be held in Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca). The number of participants has continuously been growing so that it now amounts to 400–500 researchers and teachers. In the beginning, the primary work forms were plenary sessions and sections but the congress in Jyväskylä in 2001 meant a turning point in the sense that more emphasis has since been laid on interactivity through the introduction of symposia and various workshops. Recently, the scope has been broadened towards young researchers, with a special emphasis on those post-graduate students who are just initiating their research career. For them, the Association organizes thematic conferences, with the intention of providing young researchers with the best possible expertise in a given field. The aim of these conferences is to bring doctoral students representing different cultures into contact with each other and support Hungarian Studies related doctoral training within universities. The first conference of this kind was held in Budapest in 2005.

It is telling that in the present moment the notion of Hungarian Studies has deliberately been left open for it to redefine itself, as a complex realm pertaining to the ’Hungarian’. It is our aim that this openness, curiosity and non-biased attitude shines through in the courses of action the Association takes.