Disposable strangers: far-right securitisation of forced migration in Hungary
By Cathrine Thorleifsson
This paper analyses local responses to forced migration in Hungary. Based on multi-sited fieldwork in 2015, it explores how the populist radical right reinforced the boundaries of the nation in relation to migrants from Muslim majority lands in transit to other European destinations.
Following the theoretical lines of Zygmunt Bauman and Mary Douglas, it argues that the ‘polluting migrant’ served to reinforce the ethno-nationalist boundaries of Hungarian-ness as propagated by Fidesz and Jobbik, strengthening the image of Hungary as the righteous protector of Christian European civilisation.
The anti-immigration campaigns propagated by the radical right ascribed an ontological status of ‘waste’ to the migrants, serving to legitimise their criminalisation and exclusion from national territory. An Islamophobic layer emerged in the radical right's grammar of exclusion that traditionally has targeted the country's Roma minority and Jews.
At the same time, concerned Hungarians contested racialised securitisation and suspicion, re-inscribing bios to migrants deemed as ‘human waste’ by the state.
The contradictory interpretations of migrants as waste or value, burden or benefit, parallel struggles over statehood and identity in globalised Hungary – between a society open to diversification processes and one that closes its borders to difference, on a sliding path towards an illiberal state.