When Sexism Meets Racism: the 1920 Numerus Clausus Law in Hungary


  • Katalin Fenyves Budapest College of Communication and Business




In this paper I argue that the Hungarian Numerus Clausus edict, introduced in 1920, was aimed at restricting not only the number of Hungarian Jews, but also the number of women in higher education. What is more, university admission policies, often applied beyond the legal framework of this law, reinforced and reproduced the male, nationalist, Christian and conservative hegemony. However, while the Numerus Clausus edict lived on in Hungarian common memory as the first step towards the later introduced anti-Jewish laws and the subsequent extermination of the majority of Hungarian Jews, the consequences of the law regarding women’s exclusion from higher education and thus from the intellectual elite remains mainly unknown to date. Moreover, since “gendered memory” still does not exist in Hungary, there is no way to remember the introduction of the Numerus Clausus law as one of the historical moments that marked women’s place and role in Hungarian society until well after the Second World War and as the symbolic moment when anti-Semitism and sexism met.

Author Biography

Katalin Fenyves, Budapest College of Communication and Business

Katalin Fenyves has been a college associate professor at the Budapest College of Communication and Business since 2008, teaching media culture, news editing, cultural journalism, social and cultural history. Previously she was a lecturer at various departments of the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She is the author of the monograph, Képzelt asszimiláció? – Négy zsidó értelmiségi nemzedék önképe (Imagined Assimilation? – Self-representation of Four Jewish Generations), published in 2010. Her research interest includes Jewish social and cultural history, gender, anthropology, and media.






Gender Cluster - Articles