What Metaphors Hide: Pest Control and Anti-Migrant Sentiments in a Hungarian Village

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Tatiana Safonova


In 2016 the Hungarian authorities launched an anti-migrant media campaign in reaction to the migrant crisis when thousands of refugees entered the country. Some news programs depicted migrants as dangerous masses and created visual analogies with pests. In this article I propose to view the meaning of this metaphor from the other side, that of gardens, used as models for the state. My question is: What do metaphors of pests hide and why do they become so popular in situations of crisis? Through ethnography, I show how personal gardening experiences are filled with anxiety, fear, pleasure, and pain and how the resources and positions of gardeners shape their strategies in the struggle against pests. The metaphor of migrant as pest has a painful history of being used by the Nazi regime, but despite its bad reputation, it is still in demand. My ethnographic observations lead me to a conclusion that this metaphor conceals but simultaneously
redeems the idea of private property and helps to describe crisis as a danger to the established order without explicitly problematizing this order’s own controversies. When citizens are invited to deliberate and express their opinion in a referendum on how to deal with migrants, who are presented as parasites, these citizen receive an unprecedented
power to choose who stays and who is not welcome in their state. This populist approach transforms the “gardening state” into a “state of gardeners,” in which the struggle with “weeds” and “pests” becomes an ordinary duty of every citizen rather than an authoritative task of state institutions, as it was previously described by Zygmunt Bauman, the author of the “gardening state” concept.

Article in English

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2020-12-3-5-25


Hungary, Gardens, Pests, Migrant Crisis, State, Metaphor

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