Duty to Care and Solidarity: Counter-hegemonic civic acts in authoritarian and xenophobic contexts, 21 April

21 Apr 2023
Dr. Violetta Zentai (Central European University).

Seminar jointly hosted by ISS21, PRECNIGHTS and the Doctor of Social Science Programme



In this lecture Dr. Violetta Zentai explores the cumulative experiences and consequences of conducting civic solidarity acts during the covid-19 pandemic and in the current war-related displacement of masses of Ukrainians in Europe. The context is Central and Eastern Europe, where authoritarian and xenophobic political climate has gained traction from the early 2010s and more intensively from the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’, although these trends have unfolded unevenly across the region. More closely, a series of collective research projects have explored solidarity acts unfolding in Hungary against the most advanced authoritarian and xenophobic political regime and policy apparatus. Relying on mixed qualitative research methods (and informed by population surveys as well), one stream in the larger collective research endeavours to capture the production and implementation of the ethos of the duty to care by the civil solidarians through reorganizing resources allocation, human capacities, and provisioning of basic goods in society. The inquiry also explores different collective acts endorsed by pre-political, prospective political, or explicit political reasoning on deservingness, entitlements, and responsibilities. It also reveals how solidarity actors create and exploit transformative potentials of civic experiments in reciprocal and inclusive collective actions which embrace the principles of commoning. Regarding the current solidarity acts for the displaced Ukrainians, we investigate modalities of progressive localism in which local municipal and civic actors collaborate to stretch and transgress the opportunities to mitigate social vulnerability conditions through resilience to authoritarian governance mechanisms. The counterhegemonic logic of these solidarity mechanisms is becoming more subtle due to the ambiguously welcoming rhetoric of the ruling regime towards the Ukraine refugees by refining the registers of deservingness. The theoretical puzzles of the research engage with problems of de/re-politicization of civil society, the limits to commoning in a neoliberal order, and the politics of care in late capitalist reproduction of society.

Dr. Violetta Zentai is a cultural anthropologist at the Central European University. She is engaged in research focusing on ethnic and gender inequalities, European equality policies, and debates on post-socialist capitalisms and social exclusion/inclusion. She led the CEU team in a comparative research project titled Hate speech, gender, social networks and political parties (GENHA) and contributes to another one titled Anti-discrimination in Public Service (ADinPS). Other research projects include Employment 2025: How Multiple Transitions Will Affect the European Labor Market (NEUJOBS), Ethnic Differences in Education and Diverging Prospects for Urban Youth in an enlarged Europe (EDUMIGROM), and Quality in Gender+ Equality Policies (QUING), INTEGRIM and ChangingEmployment. She is member of the supporting team of CEU's Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) which provides teaching and training services to refugees and vulnerable migrants in Europe. Dr. Zentai has been active in the Hungarian women’s movement; she worked with MONA (Foundation for the Women of Hungary) for many years and she was member of the Expert Forum of the European Gender Institute in its formative period. Parallel to her academic engagement, she worked as expert with the Open Society Foundations for two decades in initiatives related to democratic local governance, equality mainstreaming, and rights based development. Her recent publications include: Hojsik, Munteanu, Zentai, eds. From the shadow to the limelight: the value of civil society policy monitoring knowledge in Roma equality struggles (CEU, 2022); Bartha, A. and V. Zentai. Long-Term Care and Gender Equality: Fuzzy-Set Ideal Types of Care Regimes in Europe. Social Inclusion 2020, Volume 8, Issue 4, 92–102. Kóczé, Zentai, Jovanovic, Vincze, eds. A Reflexive History of the Romani Women’s Movement: Struggles and Debates in Central and Eastern Europe. (Routledge, 2018); 



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