Introduction and interview with Dr. Zoltán Kántor, Budapest Fellowship Program Mentor.
In September 2020, the Hungary Foundation together with Mathias Corvinus Collegium (Budapest, Hungary) established the Budapest Fellowship Program, a full-time, fully-funded transatlantic fellowship opportunity in Budapest, Hungary, for young American scholars and professionals. The fellows are conducting independent research on an independently chosen topic, at an assigned host institution, guided by a trusted mentor. We could not do this program without these mentors and host institutions, so we’re introducing them one by one in a series of new interviews.
Dr. Zoltán Kántor, Director of the Research Institute for Hungarian Communities Abroad (NPKI), is the mentor of Nicole Nemeth, Budapest Fellowship Program’s 2020 Senior Fellow.
Research Institute for Hungarian Communities Abroad (NPKI)
The Research Institute for Hungarian Communities Abroad was established in 2011 with the purpose of ensuring a scientific platform for studies on Hungarian minorities and diasporas worldwide. The role of the Institute extends from research through publication to the education of topics regarding the demographic, linguistic, and legal environment of Hungarian communities abroad. In order to raise awareness on the situation of Hungarian minorities, the Institute publishes an annual academic journal titled ‘The Hungarian Journal of Minority Studies‘.
The members of the institute analyze the advocacy of Hungarian communities abroad, their historical background, and future opportunities. Besides providing a scientific base for political decisions in the area, the institution organizes international conferences and symposia on a regular basis.
As one of our fellows, Nicole Nemeth’s research topic focuses on the situation of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries, and opportunities for furthering the rights of the displaced diaspora, this cooperation holds many opportunities for insightful findings and great working relationships along the way. Nicole’s topic and NPKI’s main focus has ever-growing importance, especially around the Memorial Year of the Trianon Treaty of 1920, and in the age of globalization.
Dr. Zoltán Kántor, Ph.D. is a political- and social scientist born in Temesvár – a city now belonging to Romania. Since 2011 he is the Director of the Research Institute for Hungarian Communities Abroad (Nemzetpolitikai Kutatóintézet in Hungarian). He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Rákóczi Association and is member of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University’s Doctoral School of Political Theory. According to him, Dr. Kántor is „both a lecturer and a researcher”. His field of research includes nationalism, national minorities, Hungarians abroad, and the Romanian domestic- and foreign policy. His studies have been published worldwide: in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, the United States, Germany, Spain, Japan, Slovenia, and Russia. Dr. Kántor was previously the editor of Regio and Minority Studies. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Magyar Kisebbség folyóirat (Hungarian Minority magazine), the editor of Kisebbségi Szemle (Minority Review) and the Hungarian Journal of Minority Studies.
Dr. Kántor is also a regular guest lecturer at the Babes-Bolyai University in Kolozsvár.
Dr. Kántor, How are you guiding your mentee along the way?
In the first phase, we focus on introducing the mentee to the scientific study of nationalism, national minorities, and minority rights. The goal is to ground and widen her knowledge of the peculiarities of the region. She is well-trained in her field of study, but she is more familiar with the US approach. We are trying to channel her exciting professional knowledge to the new field. Besides the consultations with the researchers of the institute, I am introducing Nicole to specialists in this field who work at other institutes. There are two high hopes for the post-pandemic time period. Hopefully, in the second semester of the academic year, Nicole will be able to attend some university courses offered in English on minority rights. Similarly, and maybe even more importantly: I’m hopeful that she will be able to travel in the spring to Romania/Transylvania, where she could meet a lot of specialists we suggest for her.
What was your first impression of her, how is working together coming along?
I think that we did find a common voice from the first moment. This is true for all of my colleagues. I think that mentoring works only if there is personal sympathy between the mentor and the mentee.
What are the main challenges of her research topic, or method?
The challenge is twofold: 1. There is an enormous amount of readings one has to do to become familiar with the European approach on minority rights. This has to be done parallel to deepening the knowledge on the history, society, and politics of the region. Obviously, both based on a solid theoretical knowledge of interethnic relations. 2. US and European law and legal approaches differ. We have to find where, and in which way Nicole’s skills can be best applied to her new field of study.
Why do you think the Budapest Fellowship Program is important, and what makes it different from others of its kind?
I have a long experience with Erasmus students, and I also studied at foreign Universities. On this ground, I may say, that the main difference is that – partially due to the small number of fellows in this program, and the commitment and professionalism of the people from BFP and MCC, and obviously from our institute – makes this program more than just offering knowledge because it also provides a vision and a personal nexus. What the Program offers is the best possible combination for accumulating knowledge.