FASHIONING THE NATION IN THE AGE OF POPULISM
Virag Molnar is a 2017-18 GIDEST Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor of Sociology at The New School for Social Research. Her research explores the intersections of culture, politics, and social change in Europe, with a special focus on urban culture, the built environment, new communications technologies, and the material culture of radical nationalism.
In her GIDEST seminar, Virag Molnar will explore emergent relations between fashion and national populism. Recent examples show how dress and fashion are both an important site and an idiom through which political conflicts over cultural membership are played out. Over thirty municipalities in France’s coastal areas have banned the burkini (full body swimwear) since 2016. One of the main campaign billboards used by the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the 2017 German parliamentary elections pictured two blonde young, bikini-wearing women from the back, accompanied by the slogan: “We prefer bikinis to burkinis.” The Israeli culture minister, Miri Regev, sparked a heated controversy at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for appearing in a dramatic dress printed with the Jerusalem skyline, clearly intended as an explicit political statement.
Using Hungary as a case study, Virag maps the various ways in which fashion is used today to delineate the symbolic boundaries of the nation by generating powerful material and visual definitions of belonging, identity, sovereignty, community, traditional craftsmanship, and shared heritage. She will draw on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted in 2016 with the owners and designers of over a dozen independent fashion labels that each stress the importance of incorporating “traditional” Hungarian motifs into contemporary everyday wear.