Continuing on the Hungarian theme, keep an eye on the Installing (Social) Order blog, where Endre Dányi is promising to provide a preview of his doctoral (STS) research on the Hungarian Parliament. The excerpts from his first post below give you an idea about his project and his plans for the guest-blogging.
Sociologists and anthropologists of science know a lot about laboratories, innovation centres, museums, design studios, hospitals, and the politics of related material practices, but curiously there’s hardly any STS work that focuses on explicitly political institutions. Perhaps the most notable exception is the thousand page long Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy catalogue, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel.
I can’t say I immediately had a clear idea about what an STS-informed research of a parliament would look like, but I knew where it could take place. As someone who grew up in Hungary, I remembered that the parliament building in the centre of Budapest was once the largest (and arguably the most impressive) of its kind – quite bizarre for a country that is not only small, but in most political scientists’ view also counts as a ‘new democracy’. Either they are right, I thought, and then props really don’t matter in politics, or the idea that liberal democracy in Central and Eastern Europe fell from the sky in 1989 – like in Peter Sloterdijk’s thought experiment – needs to be rethought.
My plan in this space within the Installing (Social) Order blog is not to provide a summary of the dissertation, but to offer some sort of a problem map. First I will focus on architecture, and discuss what we can learn about liberal democracy if we concentrate on the construction of the Hungarian parliament building in the end of the 19th century. Then I will briefly recount what happened to this building (and the political reality it was supposed to hold together) in the 20th century in order to highlight some tensions related to the definition of a political community. I’ll then concentrate on the parliament’s role in the current political regime – the Republic of Hungary – and examine some of the most important aspects of the legislative process. After this, I’ll (re-)introduce my MP friend and summarise what I’ve learned from him about political representation, which sometimes takes place in the parliament building, but some other times in TV studios, party congresses, street demonstrations, and various other places. All of my stories will be full of political objects, but the picture wouldn’t be complete if I remained silent about political subjects.