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Photo: “Évértékelő 2020 (5)“, by Elekes Andor licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original.

Kovács, Eszter Krasznai, Kavita Ramakrishnan, and Tatiana Thieme. “Provincializing European responses to the refugee ‘crisis’ through a Hungarian lens.” Political Geography 98 (2022)


This paper engages with state, citizen, and civil society responses to refugees in Budapest and Hungary more widely in order to ‘provincialise’ European migration policy and politics. We introduce grounded, eastern ‘frontline’ realities and histories to complicate European claims to universality and hierarchies of “goodness”. Through ethnographic work that documents and analyses refugee reception after the so-called 2015 refugee crisis, we shed light on the diverse forms of existing crises affecting the EU. These conflicts involve contestations over i) who is deemed European (questions that have been asked both of migrants and East Europeans), and ii) the ‘Europeanisation’ project as it has entailed new governance and funding arrangements for the development of civil society organisations. These new governance modes have attempted to re-shape city-state-EU dynamics, purposefully eliding problematic nation-state responses to refugees. These have heightened opposition to EU power-creep from conservative governments. Through an empirically rich discussion of the Hungarian context in relation to Europe, this paper speaks to the broader spectrum of grounded and politicised populist responses that have challenged the EU’s governance and future.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.