Virág Molnár received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University and is currently Associate Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research (The New School). In her current research, she explores how cross-border heritage tourism is promoted in public schools to re-imagine Hungary as an ethnically homogeneous nation by incorporating ethnic kin communities that live in neighboring countries.
Cross-border heritage tourism has for long served to establish strong ties to ethnic diaspora communities that live beyond the territorial borders of the nation state. National borders in Central and Eastern Europe were repeatedly redrawn across ethnic groups over the twentieth century. Heritage tourism remains a key cultural and economic practice that symbolically questions current national borders and aims to increase the viability of ethnic enclave economies in countries where the given ethnic group is a minority. The presentation focuses on a large-scale student travel program that was launched by the Hungarian government in 2010, the year that marked the start of a brisk populist turn in Hungarian politics.
The program provides funding to public school students for organised class trips to areas of neighboring countries (Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine) that belonged to the Hungarian state before World War I. It shows how the Hungarian government mobilises the public education system to foster a narrow and exclusionary ethnic understanding of cultural membership by selectively overemphasising Hungarian heritage in regions that have had multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural histories for centuries. This project extends research on identity-based heritage tourism to show how it has become an integral part of the propaganda toolkit of populist governments.
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