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Antisemitism contested: the emergence, meanings and uses of a Hungarian key concept

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Laczó, Ferenc

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Abstract Antisemitism has emerged as a key concept of the Hungarian sociopolitical vocabulary during the last decades when it has been chiefly employed by its critics. The paper lists four main reasons that are in turn historical, transnational, intellectual and political behind the much increased importance of this concept. Through the methods of conceptual history, it subsequently aims to show that the meaning of antisemitism has undergone significant changes since the fall of the communist regime. The three most important semantic shifts identified are its moralization, extension and politicization. While moralization is meant to indicate the complete unacceptability of antisemitism, its extended conception tends to depict it as a most complex and dangerous form of prejudice. Both the moralized and extended conception of antisemitism was also politically employed by Hungarian left liberals to contest the legitimacy of the conservative rightist forces. The latter have in turn aimed to redefine antisemitism as a political as much as a social or cultural issue, thereby contributing to its further politicization. More recent years have also brought about the visible revival of antisemitism – in spite of the concept having been recurrently and critically used in public discussions of recent decades.
Keywords Hungary; antisemitism; concept; historical development; transformation; meaning; semantics; language usage
Classification General History; Science of Literature, Linguistics
Document language English
Publication Year 2013
Page/Pages p. 28-35
Journal Südosteuropäische Hefte, 2 (2013) 1
Issue topic Antisemitismus in Südosteuropa
ISSN 2194-3710
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike