Our research

The case of Hungary is particular in a European context with regard to the relationship between populism and popular music, in the sense that populism has been attached to the post-2010 government and its leader. Firstly, the Orbán regime, in power since 2010, has legitimised right-wing populist discourses by elevating these to governmental level. Secondly, it has applied populist discourses as an ideological tool in its hegemony building, especially through constructing its political opposition as a homogenous enemy. Thirdly, as part of structural changes effected since 2010, a new system has been established in the realm of culture and cultural policy. In our research, by looking at the social, political and historical embeddedness of popular music, we look at the process of the hegemony building of the Orbán government in the field of popular music as an area of everyday culture. In our enquiry, we address the following questions:
(1) How has popular music as a field and an industry transformed since the political turn of 2010 in terms of government control and centralization?
(2) How has popular music supported by the government, including propaganda songs, paved the way for the political programme as part of which nationhood, national identity, and the points of emphasis for memory politics have been redefined?
(3) Closely connected to the previous question, how has popular music supported and disseminated by the government incorporated and mainstreamed a particular taste hierarchy, and how is this taste hierarchy related to concepts and ideologies of nationalism?
(4) How do the stylistic and genre features, as well as other musical elements and motifs, in various hit songs evoke feelings of familiarity, affective identification, and the feeling of belonging to a community? How do they connect to political and moral discourses of the government?
(5) How are these questions articulated on the side of listeners? What strategies of resistance and coping emerge in this field of hegemony building?


Assoc.-Prof. Dr. Emília Barna is a sociologist and popular music scholar, Associate Professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Her main research areas include the music industries and digitization, popular music and gender, cultural labour, and music and politics. She has co-edited Made in Hungary: Studies in Popular Music (2017, Routledge) and Popular Music, Technology, and the Changing Media Ecosystem: From Cassettes to Stream (2020, Palgrave). Contact via email

Dr. Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják is a sociologist-anthropologist. She is a postdoctoral researcher in the European project “Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe” at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. She completed a Cultural Studies PhD programme at the University of Pécs. Her main research areas are Hungarian nationalism, kin-state politics in CCE and everyday nationalism. Contact via email

Our publications

Barna, Emília. 2020. ‘IASPM Hungary: Developments and New Directions in Popular Music Research’. In: IASPM Journal 10 (1): 5. https://doi.org/10.5429/2079-3871.

Barna, Emília. 2021. ‘Managing the Eastern European Position in the Digital Era: Music Industry Showcase Events and Popular Music Export in Hungary’. In: Eastern European Music Industries and Policies after the Fall of Communism: From State Control to Free Market, by Patryk Galuszka, 15. Routledge Russian and East European Music and Culture. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Eastern-European-Music-Industries-and-Policies-after-the-Fall-of-Communism/Galuszka/p/book/9780367222390.

Barna, Emília, Kristof Nagy, and Marton Szarvas. 2021. ‘COVID-19 Crisis in Hungarian Cultural Production – Vulnerability and Deepening Authoritarian Control’. In: LeftEast, 12 February 2021. https://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/covid-19-crisis-in-hungarian-cultural-production-vulnerability-authoritarian-control/.

Barna, Emília, and Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják. 2022. ‘A populáris zene szerepe a populista diskurzusok terjedésében a 2010 utáni Magyarországon [The role of the spreading of populist discourses in Hungary after 2010]’. In: Fordulat 30: 181–213.

Barna, Emília and Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják. 2022. ‘“We are of one blood”: Hungarian popular music, nationalism and the trajectory of the song “Nélküled” through radicalization, folklorization and consecration.’ In: Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe, DOI: 10.1080/25739638.2022.2089388, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25739638.2022.2089388.

Patakfalvi-Czirják, Ágnes. 2021. Székely zászló a politikától a hétköznapokig. Tárgy, identitás, régió [The Szekler flag from politics to the everyday. Object, identity, region]. Budapest: Napvilág Kiadó. https://napvilagkiado.eu/termek/a-szekely-zaszlo/.

Public Appearances

Dávid, Sajó. 2022. ‘After Sajó Dáviddal #82: A popzene és a politikai populizmus kapcsolata Magyarországon [The relationship between pop music and political populism in Hungary’. Interview with Emília Barna and Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják. 12 May. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uya3NNF-TiQ.

Bálint, Orsolya. 2022. ‘Pop és populizmus egy húron pendülnek [Pop and populism play the same tune]’. Interview with Emília Barna and Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják. Népszava, 7 May. https://nepszava.hu/3156017_popzene-politika-magyarorszag-tarsadalom-fidesz.

“Mi egy vérből valók vagyunk?” NER és zene [Are we of one blood? The “System of National Cooperation” and Music]. Emília Barna in discussion with Mariann Falusi and Márton Gulyás. Partizán: AgitPOP. 29 March 2022.

“Rendszerkritikus könnyűzene?” (Popular music and system critique) – roundtable discussion Emília Barna, Éva Bárdits, Olivér Csepella and Olivér Hegyi, moderated by Máté Konkol, organised by Hallgatói Szakszervezet (Student Union), 11 December 2021, Auróra, Budapest.


Kultúra a digitális forradalom idején 4.: Popkultúra és politika
(Culture in the time of the digital revolution 4: Pop culture and politics), 17-18 February 2021
organisers: Emília Barna and Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják– 4th event of a conference series jointly organised by the Department of Sociology and Communication, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and Department of Media and Communication, Eötvös Loránd University