Hungarian Association for Migrants condemns PM Orbán’s take on the Charlie Hebdo killings

In a response to the Charlie Hebdo killings, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently did a television speech in which he made some rather far-reaching statements on immigration in Europe which caused consternation among some – even though he probably also earned the approval of others. Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology staff member Pál Nyiri is a member of Menedék, the ‘Hungarian Association for Migrants’, which released a press statement on Orbán’s speech. We publish the statement here in its entirety.

MENEDÉK – Hungarian Association for Migrants Press Statement

Budapest, 12 January 2015

Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants deems Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s views concerning immigration in the wake of the Paris massacre, expressed on Sunday, 11 January in the news broadcast of Hungarian public service television channel M1 and elsewhere, unfounded and unworthy of a responsible state leader.

We agree with the Hungarian Prime Minister that “immigration and the cultural concerns it raises need a much more open, honest and straightforward discussion than what we have seen so far.” It is precisely one of the basic goals of our Association. We have worked to create an open, fact- based and responsible dialogue on the topic in Hungary and in Europe for nearly two decades.

We firmly oppose, however, alongside with the European Commission and Europe’s political leaders, the PM’s view that “economic immigration is a bad thing in Europe, it shouldn’t be viewed as if it had any use, because it only brings trouble and peril to the European man, so immigration must be stopped, this is the Hungarian position.” Even David Cameron acknowledged the benefits of immigration in his recent West Midlands speech. It reflects a grave misjudgement and lack of political wisdom to reiterate anti-immigration stock phrases on the day of remembrance of the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, spreading the misconception that immigration is in any way to blame for the dread of terrorism, and curtailing, or even banning immigration is the way to get rid of the terrorism.

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Umbrellas… but revolutions?

hong-kong-protestBy Pál Nyiri. Yesterday I organized a discussion at Spui 25 to make sense of the recent events in Hong Kong. The student demonstrations demanding the direct election of Hong Kong’s chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017 — a promise made by Chinese government for 2012, but postponed and now broken — have spread to high schools and office workers, resulting in the largest mass protest in China since the 1989 democracy movement that led to the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The panelists included Frank Pieke, an anthropologist and Professor of Modern Chinese Culture at Leiden University, and two media scholars: Jeroen de Kloet, Professor of Globalisation Studies at the University of Amsterdam, and Donna Chu, Associate Professor at the Media and Communications Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. We quickly agreed that seeing the Hong Kong events as a repetition of 1989 or a revolution is misleading. China’s political system, based on Communist Party rule, is in no immediate danger. Although the Party — like in 1989 — accuses demonstrators of being the instruments of foreign countries wishing to instigate a “color revolution,” they have gone to pains to stress that their ambitions are limited to Hong Kong, and anti-Communist Party slogans have been conspicuously absent. Lees verder

“China seeks tips on how to boost Christianity,” or Wang Zuoan meets Max Weber in Kenya

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mplemmon/1314495959/sizes/o/in/photostream/

By Pal Nyiri Kenya’s Sunday Nation reports that a Chinese government delegation “led by State [Administration] for Religious Affairs minister Wang Zuoan is in Kenya to ‘copy good practices’ that could help it grow Christianity.”

“Religion is good for development,” the minister reportedly said at Bishop’s Gardens in Nairobi, at a meeting with Kenya’s Anglican archbishop. He also said that “he was happy with the localisation of Anglican Church in Kenya after independence, so that all its bishops are locals.”

Well. Where to begin? Lees verder

Chinese workers in Libya

By Pal Nyiri Acccording to a feature in Nandu Zhoukan, 36 thousand Chinese workers have been evacuated from Libya with an efficiency that, the paper claims, astounded the world. The largest operation belonged to China State Construction Engineering (CSCE, 中国建筑工程总公司), which alone employed 10 thousand Chinese workers. The paper interviewed an engineer working at a smaller operation, China Transport Construction Group (中国交通建设集团), which employed a total of 5,000 workers in Libya. This engineer, from Henan Province, worked on the real estate project near Benghazi that comprised the construction of 5,000 houses.

At the end of February, armed Libyan rebels assembled in front of the work site and commandeered two trucks. The Chinese workers assembled into units armed with crowbars and bricks; they barricaded the entrance with more trucks and threw stones over the wall. The attackers retreated, but the offices at another, unguarded work site were looted. The article refers to these Libyans as thugs and provides no political context, but the engineer is quoted as saying that Chinese workers have encountered hostility and have even been thrown stones at before. He attributes this to causing a rise in the price of consumer goods such as cigarettes: the price of Rothmans has doubled since Chinese visitors have been buying them up. The article quotes a Chinese researcher, Liu Zhirong, as saying that the Chinese media’s portrayal of African friendliness towards Chinese is skewed. The reality, it suggests, is more mixed, just as Chinese see Africa in a mixed light (they like that cars let pedestrians cross the road). Lees verder

Anthropology at the VU: socially engaged and passionate

Masters student, Gijs Verbossen, talks about the Master’s in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the VU, which focuses around the theme of Human Security. Check out the video…

In the most recent quality assessment, the Master’s programme was judged to be the best anthropology programme in the Netherlands by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders. The programme is challenging, tightly organized, and enjoys a high success rate.

For more information visit: www.vu.nl/sca

See also our series in which Master’s students write on their fieldwork: Fieldwork 2010 and Fieldwork 2011.

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Multicultural Competencies: A New VU Publication

VU University (photo by Andrew Black)

By Pál Nyíri I have received a nicely designed and expensively printed booklet in the mail. It contains a synopsis written by Nicolien Zuijdgeest. This is based on a much more extensive research report by Lucy Kortram and published by the VU’s Onderwijscentrum, entitled Multiculturele competenties. Since “diversity is our business” — to borrow a chapter title from Ulf Hannerz’s latest book – I think we in the departments of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Communication, Organisation and Management, and History should take time to read this report and comment on it. I hope this post will elicit responses from colleagues who work in this particular field. Lees verder

Interculturalism at the VU

Pál Nyíri

By Pál Nyiri I have recently received an email from the Onderwijscentrum VU (also known as the  Centre for Educational Training, Assessment and Research, or CETAR) announcing a training  called ‘intercultureel werken in het onderwijs’ (Working interculturally in education). In Seeing Culture Everywhere, Joana Breidenbach and I painted a critical, perhaps even somewhat unkind, picture of the intercultural communication (IC) business, arguing that it often amounts to little more than ethnic stereotyping couched in pseudo-scientific terms like Geert Hofstede’s “cultural dimensions”. At the same time, we acknowledge that there is a useful kind of IC training, which focuses on making participants reflect on the inherent cultural biases of their own practices they might see as universal. Lees verder

Putting Wilders in perspective

Gypsies performing (photo: stevenimmons)

By Pál Nyiri I watch with a certain envy how my colleagues take part in discussions of and protests against the PVV’s growing strength and its position on immigration. After a year in the Netherlands, I do not yet feel confident enough to participate in these debates myself, and there may be no need for it: anthropologists are perhaps represented with enough voices.

For the time being, I feel more closely connected, and more responsible, for what is happening in Hungarian politics, my country of birth, although I am growing increasingly alienated from it because I feel that the space in which any reasoned discussion of immigration is possible has shrunk to naught with the rapid shift of public discourse to higher and higher levels of nationalism and xenophobia. Lees verder

Chinese media in the Netherlands censored?

By Pál Nyiri On the website of RNW (Radio Netherlands Worldwide), Sigrid Deters writes that Chinese media in the Netherlands, except the Chinese website of the RNW itself, are “not free from censorship.” She sees avoiding the coverage of political issues such as the Dalai Lama’s visit or the riots in Xinjiang, or reporting on them one-sidedly, as evidence of censorship, although she does not explain who does the censoring and why. Editors of the Chinese papers and TV stations she interviewed denied censorship and said instead that their outlets reflected the opinions of the “community” or that it was better to stay away from controversy. An interesting exception was GogoDutch.nl (荷乐网), a popular website that has registered in China in order to avoid being blocked, and therefore, as its founder said, had to comply with Chinese regulations about content filtering.

The shift in overseas Chinese media toward a single discourse of China is a trend I have also noticed, but I am not sure if “censorship” is the right explanation for what is happening. Lees verder

Rebiya Kadeer at the VU, or the anthropologist’s dilemma

By Pál Nyiri When I lecture on China and democracy, I show students excerpts from Carma Hinton and Geremie Barme’s 1992 film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace. In the film, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square student movement, referring to exaggerated stories of the 1989 massacre, asks: “Must we use lies to stand up to our lying enemy,” i.e. the Chinese Communist Party?

The same question arose in me on 30 March as I listened to Rebiya Kadeer, the “leader of the Uyghur people” according to the president of the Turkish Academic Student Association (TASA), which organised her appearance at the VU. He had asked me, as a “China scholar,” to speak at this event, which he called a “symposium”, on the situation of the Uyghur people in China. Lees verder

About: Seeing Culture Everywhere

Earlier this week Pal Nyiri wrote a post on his talk about the evolution of consumer boycotts in China at the AAA. Both of his new books –  Cultural Mobility and Seeing Culture Everywhere – made their debut at this AAA – the latter even sold out! Here a little foretaste about ‘Seeing Culture Everywhere’.

By Pál Nyiri

Joana Breidenbach and I wrote this book as a response to Ulf Hannerz’s lament about the inability of anthropologists – the professional students of human cultures – to respond adequately to “one-big-thing” books such as Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations by presenting alternative visions that were clear and accessible. “Leaving an intellectual vacuum behind is not much of a public service,” Hannerz wrote in Foreign News.

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Back from the AAA

Photo from Tianya (a Chinese online forum) taken during the Olympic torch relay, Paris 2008

By Pál Nyiri

After my inaugural lecture – in which I suggested that anthropology should study the re-emergence of shared forms of sovereignty like China’s concessions in Africa – I gave a similar talk at the British Inter-University China Centre’s conference in Manchester and then headed to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), which this year took place in Philadelphia. Our department was well represented, with five or so VU anthropologists in attendance. The AAA tends to be overwhelming, but every five years or so it’s worth making the pilgrimage, just to see what’s “in”. Lees verder

Inaugural lecture on China’s foreign concessions

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Prof. dr Pal Nyiri

 Thursday, November 19th, Prof. dr. Pal Nyiri hold his inaugural lecture called ‘Foreign concessions: the past and future of a form of shared sovereignty.’ 

How are China’s experience of Western colonialism and today’s Chinese projects in Southeast Asia and Africa related to each other? What are the similarities between the 19th century foreign control over customs and security in treaty ports on Chinese territory and contemporary concessions on for instance palm oil plantations in Congo-Kinshasa? And why do we need both anthropology and history to understand these connections? Lees verder

Polanski and the cultural defense

Pál Nyiri wrote a short post on the Roman Polanski  affair on the Culture Matters’ weblog, examining the use of cultural relativist arguments in court cases:

 

I was intrigued to find out from today’s New York Times (Michael Cieply, “In Polanski case, a time warp”) that a report by two probation officers who, in 1977, made a recommendation against a longer gaol term (as compared to the 48 days  he got) in Polanski’s case of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old, they made the argument that while foreign filmmakers “enrich[ed] the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands, which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.” Implicitly, they were making a cultural argument in favour of a lenient sentence. Lees verder