Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich

Überlegungen zur Kunstform des ethnographischen Erzählens
Die Faszination des Dorfes Átány


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The three monographs on the Hungarian village of Átány written by Edith Fél and Támás Hofer in the 1970s are regarded as classic community studies in Cultural Anthropology. Although they stand as superior works of their time, they are worth re-reading from time to time. This article traces the different modes of re-analysing and re-interpretation of the Átány studies through the last decades of German Volkskunde. In a first step the paper tries to explain the reasons why the Átány studies could have such an impact: they are based on extensive fieldwork, they are very well constructed and well written and they seem – although not denying the ethnographic gaze – to always argue from the midst of their informants. The reader gets immersed into the small but perfectly comprehensible world of village life in the Hungarian plains. In a second step it shows how Fél and Hofer’s work was used to introduce and underpin new theoretical and political trends and how certain quotes served to cherish working class and peasant wisdom, collective and community sense, notions of sustainable economy and last but not least concepts of doing fieldwork, participant observation and research on material culture. The re-reading and the analysis of the different periods of re-reading their works by colleagues also shows the charisma these text have and what a longstanding impact well constructed ethnographic writing can have for our discipline and how it can be used to introduce or induce changes
of paradigms.