Judit Kadar

American Studies calls to mind the breadth of the American experience through various lenses, including race, ethnicity, time and place. It's a field that's explored internally and externally. Providing an external perspective is Judit Kadar, a Hungarian Fulbright Fellow in American Studies this semester.

American Studies as a discipline was subsidized by the U.S. Department of State in former eastern bloc countries following the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Prior to the regime change, we saw few Americans. Those who did come to Hungary were professionals. They had an open-minded approach and a desire to share knowledge, which I found interesting," Kadar said.

That Hungarians – or any other nationality – would be interested in studying American ways of life, is not hard to understand. "America is everywhere. It's global. It's behind everything from the fast food culture to rock and roll. Previous generations didn't get to study it," Kadar said.

Kadar, who has been teaching for 22 years, said that times have changed for Eastern Europeans studying the United States. "Previously, scholars couldn't get a passport or leave the country. They couldn't study America firsthand," she said. "Post-1990s, our approach, our opportunities are better. Scholarships, grants and other aid is available that didn't used to exist," she added.

Kadar is also a Canadian Studies scholar. "I run the Canadian Studies program at Eszterházy College. I teach an undergraduate course on multiculturalism in the U.S. and Canada. I also teach a graduate course on comparative cultural and political citizenship values in contemporary U.S.," she said.

Kadar is pleased that she was able to acquire a Fulbright fellowship on her first try. "My university is highly supportive, especially my department. I am only the second Fulbright at Eszterházy. They acknowledge the relevance and importance, particularly for my discipline," she said.

While at UNM, Kadar is offering an eight week course for the second half of the fall semester. The course, "Going Indian/Native? Cultural Manifestations of In-Betweenness," is an exploration into why someone "goes Native", or adapts cultural stereotypes such as those seen in manifestations of the "White man's Indian."

As for coming to UNM, Kadar credits American Studies Professor Gerald Vizenor. "I met him at a conference and he suggested I come here. He said it would be the place for my research and teaching," she said. She found out he was right. "Albuquerque and New Mexico possess ethnic transformation and hybridity. It is both Native American versus/and White. New Mexico has a mixed cultural background and the city is a living example," she said.

Kadar said she read about theories from post-colonial literature, ethnic studies and the psychology of ethnic change, but now, she said, "I travel around, meet people of other backgrounds and take a non-European approach to understanding the reality," she said.

Kadar meets with colleagues in her discipline and beyond. She also visits classes. Lots of classes.

"Visiting classes stimulates me. For instance I have learned some interesting approaches at Dr. Jennifer Denetdale's classes on Critical Native American Studies that help me clarify the grounds that my research can and cannot explore extensively." She added that Denetdale clarifies terms, and describes what she won't have access to when she gets back.

Kadar is impressed with the caliber of students. "All the classes I've attended have depth and scope. The graduate students possess incredible knowledge. The faculty whose work is coordinated by Dr. Gabriel Melendez work closely with them to help them make the leap academically," she said. She added that the American Studies professors motivate their students. "The complexity of thought at the graduate level is inspirational," she said.

Kadar is seeing how the UNM professors help native and other students of color "develop their voice." "It goes beyond post-colonial discourse. This is a new opportunity to get rid of stereotyped and loaded approaches to history. They study histories," she said, adding that the students learn to tell their own tribal histories in their own way.

"Their instructors emphasize that they have this at hand through their identity, history and literature," Kadar said, adding that the faculty teach theories for students to use as tools.

The Prussian system employed for educating students is still prevalent in Hungary, which now runs under the Bologna system. "Students still want me to tell them what to think. Creativity isn't appreciate enough in these systems. We have to encourage our students to dare to engage in critical thinking," she said.

Kadar said that she is grateful for the opportunity to come to UNM as Fulbright fellow. "I just wish I could prolong it for another term so that I could accomplish even more with my new research project," she said.

Media Contact: Carolyn Gonzales (505) 277-5920; email: cgonzal@unm.edu