Conference 2010 Brief Report

HSAC Annual Conference
May 29-30, 2010
Concordia University, Montreal

For the Hungarian version, click here

Prof. George Bisztray

The 25th annual conference of the HSAC took place at Montreal’s Concordia University at the end of May 2010 as part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences. The conference was opened by the outgoing President of HSAC, Professor Andor Tari on May 29th and the first lecture was given by Professor George Bisztray, founder (in 1985) and long-serving Secretary of the Association, retired Chair of Hungarian Studies at the University of Toronto. In his speech he gave a brief survey of the events and achievements of HSAC over the 30 years of its existence, recalling that it is the only academic association in Canada whose objective is the scholarly study of Hungary’s cultural, social, political life as well as that of Hungarians in Canada. The Association provides a forum for scholars to exchange ideas at its annual conferences, publishes the only English language scholarly journal of Hungarian studies, the Hungarian Studies Review as well as an occasional series of papers, Occasional Papers in Hungarian Studies.

Judit Havas

Among European guest lecturers was Dr. Amedeo Di Francesco, until recently President of the International Association of Hungarian Studies, who spoke about the history of Hungarian Studies at Italian universities. The University of Miskolc in Hungary was represented by Professor Erzsebet Molnar who spoke about the 19th century Transylvanian linguist and philosopher, Samuel Brassai. Judit Havas, literary scholar and performer from the Petofi Literature Museum in Budapest gave a paper about the third generation of poets writers of the famous Hungarian literary journal Nyugat (early 20th century). She also gave a recital of poetry and song, involving the audience in part of the program.

Professor Oliver Botar of the University of Manitoba, prominent and dynamic art historian and a longstanding member of HSAC, gave a multi-media presentation on “Erno Kallai, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Gyorgy Kepes and the Aestheticization of Photography.” HSAC was happy to have a number of papers given by young scholars or PhD students, many of whom had Canadian themes. Christopher Adam, lecturer in European history at Carleton University presented a paper about the decline of communist ideology among Hungarians in Canada and with that of the Munkas (the Worker) weekly newspaper. Eva Bodnar, PhD student of the University of Alberta spoke about a little known episode in the life of Lajos Kossuth, his banknote trial in London in 1861 where he was living in exile at the time. (Photo: Title page of Prof. Oliver Botar’s presentation)

Eniko Pittner

Eniko Pittner PhD student at the University of Toronto, presented a paper in which she surveyed the Hungarian language newspapers in Canada between 1957 and 1972. Nausikaa Muresan of Ottawa investigated the role of memory in Joe Kertes’s recent award-winning book Gratitude. In her paper on “generational” fiction in Hungary and the Hungarian diaspora, Eva Fulop, PhD student from Hungary on a scholarship at the University of Alberta, compared the work of three Hungarian origin women writers who live in three different countries.

Nausikaa Muresan

Fictionalized family narratives such as those of Nadas and Esterhazy have become an important genre in fiction and non-fiction writing because such works reflect the desire to deal with the past and add to our understanding of recent European history which cannot be obtained from history alone. She compared the memoirs/family novels of Agota Kristof or Switzerland who writes in French with Zsuzsa Ban of Germany and Anna Porter of Canada whose book about her Hungarian grandfather was also a topic in last year’s conference.

Dr. Magda Velki of Montreal spoke about the particularities of Hungarian language usage among Montrealers of Hungarian origin and asked whether linguistically speaking one might be able to consider “Canadian” Hungarian a variety of Hungarian in the same way Hungarian is accepted in other minority/diaspora situations as for instance in Vojvodina, Serbia.

Dr. Magda Velki

Among presenters on the second day of the conference Professor Nandor Dreisziger stepped in at the last minute (as Gloria Roheim of the University of Toronto had to cancel her presentation on Hungarian foreign policy) and gave a summary presentation in the general context of “migration” which was a frequent theme of the conference, on the recent debate about what genetic research says about the origin of Hungarians and some of the myths about those who settled the region that is today’s Hungary. 

Paul St. Clair

Paul St. Clair of the Roma Advocacy Centre of Toronto addressed a topic of current interest both in Canada and Hungary: he provided facts and figures about Hungarian Roma refugee claimants. He explained the history of why and how Hungarian Roma claimants were largely unsuccessful in their applications in comparison to the Czechs back in the late 90’s when Roma claimants from both countries started arriving in relatively large numbers and how this affects to some degree their current prospects. A “test case” back in the 90’s resulted in the wholesale rejection of many Hungarian applicants, even though their cases were very similar to other claimants who were accepted. Recently a court judged that the “test case” was unconstitutional but this may not affect the current situation much as the government has re-imposed visa requirements for Czech citizens and is making changes to refugee legislation that may make it harder in general to claim asylum from certain countries such as Hungary. In the meantime many Roma in Europe continue to face difficult situations in their home countries. He also spoke about the difficulties some Roma face in Toronto, for instance in schooling, but attempts are being made to help them integrate.

Christopher Adam

In the last session of the conference Jozsef Orosz, Hungarian Pulitzer prize winning journalist spoke about Hungarian media and the battles that have characterized political debates of the last few years in Hungary. Professor Andras Gollner of Concordia University presented a paper about the sustainability of democracy in general and with respect to political discourse in Hungary in particular. This session of the conference was particularly well-attended. The Annual General Meeting of HSAC saw the biennial election of officers take place. Professor Bisztray has stepped down from his many years of work as Secretary and was thanked by the Association for 25 years of loyal service. Professor Andor Tari, president has also stepped down. The new slate of officers for 2010-12 are as follows: President: Professor Agatha Schwartz (University of Ottawa). Vice-President: Dr Christopher Adam of Carleton University (who will be acting president during 2010-11 while Agatha Schwartz is on sabbatical). Secretary: Judy Young Drache of Ottawa. Treasurer: Margit Lovrics of Toronto. Publications Committee Chair: Professor Nandor Dreisziger. Conference Program Committee for 2011: Chaired by Professor Pal Pilisi of Chicoutimi, Christopher Adam and Eniko Pittner. Planning and Nominations Committee: Professor Oliver Botar (U of Manitoba), Dr Eva Tomory (U of Toronto) and Magda Velki (Montreal).

The annual dinner of the Association took place at the Hungarian restaurant Rococo in Montreal. Special guest of honour was Dr. Judith Woodsworth, President of Concordia University who was accompanied by her husband, Lindsay Chrysler, and who greeted conference participants in Hungarian as well as the two official languages. The Association presented Professor Bisztray with a gift as a small token of their appreciation for his many years of work on behalf of the Association.

The 2011 conference of HSAC will take place with the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New Brunswick and St Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick on May 29-30 2011. We look forward to seeing as many members and friends as possible!