Call for academic solidarity

On 2018, during January and early February, I had joined a group of Hungarian researchers to apply for research funds from the National Research, Development and Innovation Office with a 3-year research project at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Center of the Humanities. Our application won ca. 25 million Forints (ca. 70.600 Euros) and started on 1 October, 2018. The English title of the project is “Knowledge, Landscape, Nation and Empire: Practices of knowing and transforming landscape in Hungary and the Balkans, 1850-1945” (there is no English version on the institution’s website).

Currently, I am represented by the Helsinki Committee in a Labor Court trial against the institution, because according to the project application the institute was supposed to hire me as an affiliated Assistant Researcher (which is a public servant position), but after registering me at the National Tax Office and signing me in as member of the institution, the director and employer, historian Pál Fodor denied to sign my contract after 1 month delay and agreed-upon work, and then the Principal Investigator kicked me out of the project. Prior to this, I was not in conflict with any of the project members and there was no evidence that I had hampered the project in any way. The Principal Investigator, Gábor Demeter admitted in public court on 23 January 2020 that he had supplied informal “references” on my “bad” scholarship – without my knowledge – to the director and that someone had “phoned in” to ask that I not be employed at the institution. Behind this informal reason – which was affirmed in public press (index.hu, kettosmerce.hu, read the Kettős Mérce article in English)  – was that the institution received a non-public Facebook comment of mine leaked to the institution by an individual from our personal debate in which I expressed my despise for the person’s neoliberal social-Darwinist statement “homelessness is due to the lack of money instincts” (for details, read my blog post in Hungarian).

Below you can read the basic text of our research application (see .pdf); it also had other attachments and was uploaded in different parts via an official form. I was not responsible for making the final editing and uploading of the text, the latter was the responsibility of the Principal Investigator. My contribution to the research project was the application of postcolonial theory and world-systems analysis to the case study of Hungarian Balkanism in order to understand it as part of a semiperipheral trajectory within global colonialism. My empirical input was to look at geographers and geographical knowledge production in Hungarian imperialism and colonialism in the Balkans. I’ve highlighted in the text all unedited parts that have been written only by me, and represent my own academic research and intellectual property. I never allowed my intellectual contribution to be used without my permission solely for others’ financial gain at the expense of my basic rights and material interests.

Since the incident, I’ve presented (or will present) my thesis and concept at:

Central European University on the occasion of Diana Mishkova’s book launch of Beyond Balkanism in 2018;

– the 43rd PEWS conference in Freiburg in 2019;

– the Dialoguing Between the Posts 2.0 conference in Belgrade in 2019

– at a forthcoming workshop Studying the Balkans Globally in Belgrade during 2020.

– in a forthcoming book chapter entitled “Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans” for a Routledge volume edited by Manuela Boatca;

– in another manuscript to be submitted to a Q1 journal (title not indicated here due to double-blind peer review);

My application for an ethical procedure was denied by the Academy on the grounds that there is already an ongoing court trial, and my letters to the institution and the president of the Academy asking to resolve this incident in 2018 were simply left unanswered. Despite that I was working as a researcher in the 1989 After 1989 and the Socialism Goes Global international research projects, and the Academy’s research institution was their project partner, the institution denied to provide me with a permission for archival research (only Hungarian institutions are allowed to provide such). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court trial has been delayed, and justice has not yet been done.

I hereby turn to the international academic community to ask for solidarity statements indicating that such unethical acts violate basic scientific norms and should not be tolerated in academia. If you agree with the above, please express your concerns and share this post widely.

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