1st Edition

The Genesis and Structure of the Hungarian Jazz Diaspora

By Ádám Havas Copyright 2022
    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    In Hungary, jazz was at the forefront of heated debates sparked by the racialised tensions between national music traditions and newly emerging forms of popular culture that challenged the prevailing status quo within the cultural hierarchies of different historical eras. Drawing on an extensive, four-year field research project, including ethnographic observations and 29 in-depth interviews, this book is the first to explore the hidden diasporic narrative(s) of Hungarian jazz through the system of historically formed distinctions linked to the social practices of assimilated Jews and Romani musicians. The chapters illustrate how different concepts of authenticity and conflicting definitions of jazz as the "sound of Western modernity" have resulted in a unique hierarchical setting.  The book's account of the fundamental opposition between US-centric mainstream jazz (bebop) and Bartók-inspired free jazz camps not only reveals the extent to which traditionalism and modernism were linked to class- and race-based cultural distinctions, but offers critical insights about the social logic of Hungary’s geocultural positioning in the ‘twilight zone’ between East and West to use the words of Maria Todorova. Following a historical overview that incorporates comparisons with other Central European jazz cultures, the book offers a rigorous analysis of how the transition from playing ‘caféhouse music’ to bebop became a significant element in the status claims of Hungary’s ‘significant others’, i.e. Romani musicians. By combining the innovative application of Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural sociology with popular music studies and postcolonial scholarship, this work offers a forceful demonstration of the manifold connections of this particular jazz scene to global networks of cultural production, which also continue to shape it.


    Chapter 1: On the crossroads of cultural sociology and jazz studies

    Chapter 2: The ‘othering effect’ of jazz: cultural and racial hierarchies in Hungary’s jazz age

    Chapter 3: Polarisation, acceptance and in-betweenness: Jazz in state socialist Hungary

    Chapter 4: Struggles that matter: The social constructions of bebop and free jazz

    Chapter 5: Othering whiteness: Permanence and change in Romani musicians’ jazz habitus

    Conclusion: Counter-discourses, jazz diasporas and the reconfiguration of the canon



    Ádám Havas is a Sociologist and jazz researcher based in Budapest, Hungary.

    What a complex, brilliant little book! It’s best to read it as
    • a tour de force in the ethnography of performing arts, putting the field of jazz in Hungary on the map of the social sciences world-wide,
    • a courageous renewal of the Bourdieusian dialect of sociology, from the sidelines of European bourgeois modernity,
    • an ethnography of the place of ‘race’ and identity as they appear in the cosmos of the creative arts, and dance in the double bind of Dirty Whiteness and (dis)privilege,
    • an insider-outsider take on the whirl of radically open-ended art,
    • an account of creative lives that vibrate between bebop inspirations and the “burden of free idioms”, negotiating the all-important informal scripts played in the “Roma” and “assimilated Jewish” scenes, and
    • a sparkling allegory for semiperipheral east-central Europe, a tiny universe of its own, forever in search of a sound—finding a voice that it can regard as its own.

    József Böröcz, Professor of Sociology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA