Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology

Mate Eichenseher: Cultural diversity in Southwestern Hungary on the example of the Zsolnay china factory around the year 1900

Primary supervisor: Prof. Dr. Reinhard Johler

Subsidized by: Scholarship within the scope of the junior professorship “Culture and history of Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries with special emphasis on interethnic relationships and particular reference to the German minorities in South-eastern Europe“

Throughout the 19th century, the Baranya region in southwestern Hungary was characterized by considerable cultural diversity and mobility. The industrial development of the town of Pécs, in particular, attracted people from the surrounding areas and even from faraway regions. They entered into new relationships at their workplaces and beyond and new communities and groupings were formed. One of the major employers in the town of Pécs at that time was Vilmos Zsolnay who had taken over a ceramics factory in 1865. Under his ownership the company gradually developed into a china factory from 1868 onwards, increasingly focusing its production on high-quality products. This development was based on technological innovations that centred primarily on refining the china raw material and its processing methods. To create finished china products satisfying high demands on craftsmanship, art and aesthetics from a white raw mass consisting of kaolin, feldspar and silica, a wealth of knowledge, experience and cooperation is required. Highly qualified skilled workers, engineers and artists were recruited by the company from all regions of Europe. Others were attracted by the reputation of the china factory. The resulting cultural diversity and the new challenges emerging in the factory had to be organized and coordinated. The workforce involved in this process, as outlined as one of the assumptions of this thesis, developed a specific intra-company culture. The ideas, preferences, rules and cultural practices of the actors involved in this process constituted and at the same time challenged and modified the culture of the company.On the other hand, the influence of international developments both in the political field and in technology, economics, aesthetics and fashion obviously had an impact on the culture of the company that was no less profound. This is particularly true for the World’s Fairs in Vienna in 1873 and in Paris in 1878 where the Zsolnay china company not only presented its products and was awarded numerous prizes but also used these fairs as a basis for building international relationships.The focus of this thesis is on the labour world at the Zsolnay china company in Pécs. The starting point of this historical-ethnographic analysis is the question of how the cultural diversity of the personnel of this china company came about and how it was perceived, discussed and put to use. The research is based on the assumption that culture initiates permanent practical processes of negotiating the rules according to which individuals, groups and societies live together, cooperate, communicate, and distinguish themselves from each other. My interest centres on how people work, organize their everyday lives and interact with each other, how they apply their natural and cultural heritage and how they visualize these interrelationships for themselves.

E-Mail: mate.eichenseherspam