Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History

2021 Recipient

Anita Kurimay

Queer Budapest, 1873-1961

The Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the field of history in the previous calendar year.

Co-Winner: Anita Kurimay
Title: Queer Budapest, 1873-1961 (University of Chicago Press)

Anita Kurimay’s Queer Budapest, 1873-1961 is a trailblazing study of non-normative sexualities in Hungary that sweeps across successive eras and political regimes. Kurimay traces shifts in state policy from monarchy, revolutionary socialism, interwar authoritarian conservatism, fascism, and socialism to reveal the close connection between Hungarian state building and its management of non-normative sexual behavior. Her work demonstrates the persistence of repression, which changed in form and intensity, from registration to harsh punishment to heteronormativity and decriminalization. Kurimay masterfully links her meticulous research to larger European discourses about sex and the transnational circulation of ideas and information. Her creative use of medical, cultural, and police records allows her to bring to life a subculture long hidden in the shadows, illuminating the collective silencing enforced by generations of Hungarian policymakers despite radically different politics. Most striking, is the surprising contrast between the illiberal tolerance of conservative policymakers and the more intrusive socialist emphasis on transformation. Firmly centering the growing metropolis of Budapest in wider European discussions about sexuality, she situates the state’s shifting policies as well as the struggle for sexual freedom as part of a larger project of modernity.

Co-Winner: Krista A. Goff