Encounters in the Jungle: Ethnicity and Identity in Szeklerland, 1918–1940

The article analyses practices of identification in everyday contexts in interwar Szeklerland. While the region was symbolically close to Hungary and Szeklers were perceived as the most authentic Hungarians, in practice distance dominated relations, due to backwardness and geography. For Greater Romania Szeklers were the archetypal other, but the state aimed to eliminate this distance through extreme nationalizing measures. However, Szekler-Romanian differences were manifested as Hungarian-Romanian divisions. Behind this powerful discursive and political differentiation everyday practices and interactions revealed mostly contingency and situationality of ethnicity. The article, borrowing from the concepts of identification, everyday ethnicity, and using the typologies of Rogers Brubaker et al. and Jon Fox and Cynthia Miller-Idriss, shows how individual understandings of Hungarianness and Romanianness were connected to certain social milieus, how it brought to light the complexity of a nationalizing state, and how practices associated with ethnicity were used to delineate groups within one’s own nations. In the rural world people and state agents had to deal with indifference and customs that were not ethnic for locals but were seen as such by external observers. Middle-class practices, on the other hand, were dominated by what was understood as expressions of Hungarian ethnicity, due to the ethnic and social composition of the region, but these were accepted as signifiers of social status and prestige by the few Romanians too. Thus, they could even express their difference from Old Kingdom Romanians.

Released: Replika 105, 91–106.
Replika block: