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

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:

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