Care of the State. Relationships in and through state care in late socialist Hungary
Completed PhD project
Recent major scandals of historic abuse in children’s homes provide a disconcerting account of the everyday dynamics in many institutions and of the unhappiness of residents. While many aspects of the history of child welfare and institutional structures have been noted and discussed, experiences in care themselves have received less academic attention. My PhD project aims to bring together anthropology of the state and ‘new’ kinship studies. I offer insights into constructions of state and kinship by exploring the relationships that developed in and through state care in Hungary in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My main empirical question is how being in state care interrupted, maintained and/or created significant relationships for children in care. This opens up several topics that go beyond my research setting: questions of what is ‘the state’?; how norms are translated into state practices; negotiating public/private boundaries around children; and the ‘negative’ sides and impermanence of kinship.
Across all chapters the question is raised of how and why the boundaries between state and family are being reproduced and negated. A second main point considered in each chapter is how the state focus on parents led children in care to underestimate the care and value of other possible relationships in and outside of the family. My analysis builds on biographical interviews with care leavers, observations of visits with care leavers to their former children’s home and child protection case files that were closed at the start of the 1980s from Somogy County, Hungary.
Jennifer Rasell completed her doctorate at the Humboldt University of Berlin on 19 February 2018 with the grade "magna cum laude".
Jennifer Rasell has published the following essay on her dissertation topic:
Rasell, Jennifer (2015): Rethinking care and violence. Dynamics in children's homes in state socialist Hungary, Anthropology of East Europe Review, 33/1, 59-69, URL: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/aeer/article/view/18225
Publication: Care of the State. Relationships, Kinship and the State in Children’s Homes in Late Socialist Hungary, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.