In 2014, the Hungarian Accreditation Committee approved the MA Inter-American Program devised by the Department of Hispanic Studies and the Department of American Studies from the Faculty of Arts, University of Szeged. Only few people know that the idea of Inter-American studies originated more than four decades ago, in 1972, with Professor Sarolta Kretzoi (1928-2008), researcher of early American literature and then the Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature (which became an independent department in 1969), who helped developing various fields of study in her institution, most notably American Studies. At the same time, at the Institute of History, the research conducted by Professor Tibor Wittman (1923-1972) focused progressively on the history of Latin American countries. More than four decades ago, during an afternoon tea, the two professors talked about possible long-time projects involving a common, Inter-American Studies Program that would embrace both departments. The writer of these words, then an assistant professor of history, was present at the birth of this idea which, unfortunately, was not able to receive any support at that time.
Therefore, the two departments went on separate paths. After the early death of Tibor Wittman in 1972, the Latin American History Studies was institutionalized as special training and became the bedrock of the Latin American History Research Group founded in 1982, which then developed into the Department of Hispanic Studies in 1993 that offered a 50-credit special program in Latin American Studies. The English Department has meanwhile trained its own scholars, who founded the American Studies Department in 1985.
Paradoxical or not, the students of these two departments that were not institutionally connected to each other have started building their own Inter-American studies researches. Many Spanish majors decide(d) to work on North American topics and numerous English and American Studies majors opt(ed) for an additional, special program in Latin American Studies. Moreover, the Doctoral Programs of the Faculty of Arts have also started counting dissertation topics focusing on Inter-American studies. It seems that both our undergraduate and graduate students sensed the importance of Americas’ close interconnectedness. Additionally, the international relations of the two departments’ faculty have also taken an Inter-American direction.
The Inter-American topics, tangential to the two programs (such as Native issues, immigration and migration, environmental issues, multiculturalism, political connections, economic cooperation, etc.) offered the possibility of an integrated, multidisciplinary masters program that would study the entire continent as an interconnected area. Moreover, during the past decade, following the implementation of the Bologna Process, Hungarian Higher Education has given larger freedom to establish new programs fitting into the European Higher Education Area. It was at this point when the faculty of the Department of Hispanic Studies joined by the faculty of the Department of American Studies saw a real possibility in reconsidering the idea of Inter-American Studies dreamt by Sarolta Kretzoi and Tibor Wittman back in 1972. Our rich special library collections compiled during earlier decades, the international relations and research ties of the two departments, along with the teaching experience, research and publications of the faculty on both sides constituted the solid foundation of this new program.
The study of similar programs in Europe greatly helped in establishing an attractively diverse program useful for students applying to public institutions and companies working with international relations. The Inter-American MA program aims to train skilled speakers of foreign languages and, at the same time, competent specialists in the cultures of the Americas. Its angle is Pan-American and it rests on two main sites: on the North American (USA) and on the Latin American pillars, both tailored to the specialization needs of our students, involving regional blocks (Canada, the Caribbean, the Andes, Brazil, etc.) also, with English and Spanish (optionally French and Portuguese) being prerequisites for entrance.
The present, tenth anniversary issue of Americana E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary’s is the first document of our Inter-American cooperation.
(Transl. Réka M. Cristian)