Opposing peripheralization? A case study of rural social enterprises in Hungary

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Mihály, Melinda
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Since the collapse of state socialism in 1989 regional disparities have been growing considerably in Hungary. In particular, small settlements in structurally disadvantaged areas are affected by different dimensions of peripheralization processes, such as stigmatization (they are labelled as “lagged behind”, “backwards” or “underdeveloped” areas), selective migration, disconnection, dependence and social exclusion. In addition, social exclusion in Hungary has an ethnic dimension, as Roma people tend to concentrate in peripheralized areas. As a response to these processes, local initiatives, such as rural social enterprises or social and solidarity economy initiatives, have emerged, counting Roma people amongst their stakeholders. Based on ethnographic methods the article examines the capacity of three rural social enterprises to counteract these peripheralization processes, particularly the dimensions of political dependence and social or ethnic exclusion. The analysis has two parts. On the one hand, this paper examines how the institutional basis (civilian-based, municipality-based or faith based social enterprise) influences the political autonomy of a social enterprise, its access to funding and consequently its room for maneuverability. On the other hand, this paper looks to which extent the so-called Gypsy-Hungarian differentiation (Kovai, 2018, Horváth, 2008, Horváth and Kovai, 2010) determines local realities in peripheralized villages and how rural social enterprises can empower Roma people and divert the differentiation between the conceptual “Gypsy” and the conceptual “Hungarian”. The findings suggest that only the civilian-based social enterprise reflects the racialized and gendered oppression of Roma and thus has the greatest potential concerning Roma empowerment. On the other hand, the civilian-based social enterprise faces the most severe structural and financial challenges due to the constraining institutional framework, which favors centralized organization structures.
periferizáció , társadalmi vállalkozások , vidéki térségek - Magyarország , vidéki vállalkozások
ACME: An international e-journal for critical geographies 18:(2) pp. 551-575. (2019)