Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2018 Citation Recipient


John C. Swanson

The 2018 Barbara Jelavich Book Prize was awarded to John C. Swanson for Tangible Belonging: Negotiating Germanness in Twentieth Century Hungary (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Based on over a decade of research Tangible Belonging is a skilfully constructed analysis of what it has meant to be German in Hungary across 150 years. Faced with a scattered and partial source base, this work blends very impressively personal methodology (grassroots walking of the terrain; oral testimony) with in-depth archival research in the Hungarian and German languages. As the author notes, it is a case of “historian-become-ethnographer,” and we follow him on this journey. The book manages the subject of Germanness from a whole range of angles including material culture, sexual morality, evolving identity in a Hungarian-speaking world, international trends in politics, and much else. The book is also exceptionally well-structured, bringing the reader back steadily to the subject of how different traditions of Germanness in Hungary were remembered and passed down through the generations. It is a book both ambitious and innovative, breaking new ground in its conceptualization of national identity. There is also a lightness of touch hat makes this book valuable both to scholars and more general audiences interested in the multiethnic and multicultural histories of Eastern Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries.