Conflicts among lesbian representations in Hungary

Kalocsai, Csilla (2000). Conflicts among lesbian representations in Hungary. MPhil thesis The Open University.



In this study I examine dominant representations of lesbians and lesbian self-representations on identity and community in Hungary. I situate my study within the current political-economic transition, which provides the temporal scope of this project. I argue that the breakdown of state-socialism in Hungary offered opportunity for the establishment of civil society and the introduction of gay and feminist civil organizations. I consider gay and feminist organizations as subaltern counterpublics that provide space for lesbians to enter and account for the emergence and circulation of lesbian representations.

I explore how the Hungarian popular media depicts lesbians. I focus on the representational practices of the media texts, and I argue that Hungarian media constructs lesbianism in an ambivalent way. The journalistic representations give occasional visibility to lesbians, however, they restrict lesbian's voices, produce and reproduce stereotypical images about lesbians. The framing of the texts explicitly or implicitly mobilize dominant discourses on lesbianism, they thus reinscribe lesbianism into mainstream discourses.

Lesbian self-representations overlap and at times conflict with dominant representations of lesbians. In my empirical study, I investigate how lesbians represent and construct their identities in coming-out narratives. I show that the women interviewed present their identity as original, continuous, and totalizing. The adherence to essentialism makes coming out possible in a context which denies to recognize lesbian difference. Lesbian self-representations reproduce dominant representations of lesbians by laying claim to essentialist conceptions of identity, but they also contest mainstream representations by pointing out the social conditions of the construction of lesbian identity.

I also show how lesbians represent and construct their communities in their narratives. I argue that lesbians search for communities that are predicated on their shared sexual and gender identity and on their common experience of heterosexist and patriarchal oppression. However, I also point out that lesbian communities are multiple and fragmented social arenas which are constituted by differences and conflicts among lesbians. The inquiry of lesbian communities interrogates dominant representations by articulating lesbian political participation and questions lesbian self-representations of identity by reflecting on the differences among lesbian identities.

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