The Changing Patterns of the Appearance of Strangeness

Proceedings of The 5th World Conference on Research in Social Sciences

Year: 2023



The Changing Patterns of the Appearance of Strangeness

Julianna Kohut-Ferki




One of the urgent theoretical challenges of contemporary culture and social sciences is the extremely rapid transformation of socio-cultural relations and the compulsion to adapt, and the multiplication of the stranger and the continuous change of its meaning. Based on my ethnographic field research in Beregdéda, a multi-ethnic Transcarpathian village in Ukraine with a predominantly Hungarian population, I try to reflect on why the formulation of strangeness becomes necessary, and how the appearance of the stranger modifies, washes away, rebuilds, or creates the symbolic boundaries between the Hungarian-Ukrainian-Gypsy ethnicities living together. How and on what occasions does the stranger appear? Where does the own and where does the other begin? The appearance of the stranger in the local society has given rise to the possibility of reconciling different cultural and economic interests, the possibility of mutual curiosity, the possibility of nuancing and overturning stereotypes, and the creation of new stereotypes when encountering difficulties in interpretation. Thus, for example, the difference in values is ethnicized in the local society, where the Ukrainian appears in the narratives as a traveler seeking experiences and preferring excursions, while the Hungarian appears as an owner who beautifies their house throughout their life and does not want to leave it for trips. At the time of the fieldwork, in the spring of 2015, the Ukrainian-Russian war conflicts provided the breeding ground for stereotypical perceptions of ethnicities, while the appearance of the stranger led to the strengthening of the relationship between the Ukrainians, Hungarians and Gypsies living in the local society, and to their formation in a united front. In Ukraine, the stranger is interpreted as a “threat” during a war that deepened the unstable economic situation, yet the Ukrainian tourist arriving in the local society was a source of livelihood and financial income for the locals, and thus individual interests overrode the macro-level narratives and the fear of the stranger.

keywords: sociocultural alienation, boundary formation, ethnicity, Beregdéda