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

Katalin Fenyves


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.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ahea.2011.35

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