The Extended Nation as a Political Project – Hungarian Diaspora Living in Western Canada

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Abstract

Policy towards Hungarians living in neighbouring countries has been a central issue for Hungarian governments, yet Hungarian diaspora living mainly in Western Europe and North America have received very little attention. This has changed after the 2010 landslide victory of Fidesz. The new government introduced a structured policy focused on engaging Hungarian diaspora, largely due to the nationalist rhetoric of the governing party. The article argues that this change reflects a turn of Hungarian nationalism into what Ragazzi and Balalowska (2011) have called post-territorial nationalism, where national belonging becomes disconnected from territory. It is because of this new conception of Hungarian nationalism that we witness the Hungarian government approach Hungarian communities living in other countries in new ways while using new policy tools: the offer of extraterritorial citizenship; political campaigns to motivate the diaspora to take part in Hungarian domestic politics by voting in legislative elections; or the never-before-seen high state budget allocated to support these communities. Our analysis is based on qualitative data gathered in 2016 from focus group discussions conducted in the Hungarian community of Western Canada to understand the effects of this diaspora politics from a bottom-up perspective. Using the theoretical framework of extraterritorial citizenship, external voting rights and diaspora engagement programmes, the paper gives a brief overview of the development of the Hungarian diaspora policy. We focus on how post-territorial nationalism of the Hungarian government after 2010 effects the ties of Hungarian communities in Canada with Hungary, how the members of these communities conceptualise the meaning of their “new” Hungarian citizenship, voting rights and other diaspora programmes. We argue that external citizenship and voting rights play a crucial role in the Orbán government’s attempt to govern Hungarian diaspora communities through diaspora policy.

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