Ez ez előadás egy prominens magyar geográfus eredetileg az 1950-es években írt tankönyvének posztszocialista időszakbeli újrakiadásának körülményeit tárja fel, és a magyar posztszocialista geográfia „nagy történeti hézagának” ellentmondásos narratíváiban értelmezi. Mendöl Tibor „Bevezetés a földrajzba” című egyetemi jegyzete egy kettős narratívában íródott hibrid szöveg: egyfelől az előző konzervatív-nacionalista rezsim hagyományos „felfedezések története” narratívája, másfelől a későbbi szovjetizált rezsim kötelezően átvett marxista-leninista nyelvezete hatja át. 1999-ben a szöveg két rehabilitátorát, Perczel Györgyöt és Probáld Ferencet egészen különböző motivációk vezérelték (mint például egy letűnt, egykor dicsőséges földrajzi hagyományhoz való visszatérés, vagy a diszkreditált szocialista múlt szelektív elfedése), ám mindkét esetben a szerző szimbolikus átértelmezését követték el. Ez végső soron a szöveg önkényes átszerkesztéséhez vezetett, először is a kompromittálónak talált részek kitörlésével, másodszor a mű „teljes” történeti ívének „befejezése” általi újrakeretezésével, harmadszor pedig az ideológiailag terhelt szövegrészek szelektív és nem teljes „lefordításával” egy deideologizált formába. Az előadás célja rétegről rétegre bemutatni a szöveg történeti kontextusait, ugyanis a szövegértelmezési és történeti újraértelmezés nélkül az olvasó úgymond benn ragad Mendöl összeszőtt kettős narratívájának „hermeneutikai csapdájában”. Az előadás utolsó részében a tankönyv dicsőséges „felfedezések története” narratívája és világtörténeti, geopolitikai képzelete mai újraértelmezési lehetőségeit mutatom be a kritikai elmélet anti-eurocentrikus szakirodalmán keresztül.
Phantom of the past: Postsocialist contradictions in Tibor Mendöl’s republished “Introduction to Geography” textbook
This paper aims to unravel the contextual layers of the postsocialist republishing of a prominent Hungarian geographer’s textbook originally written in the 1950s, which is considered here as a vehicle of the contested narrativity in the “big historical gap” of postsocialist Hungarian geography. Tibor Mendöl’s Introduction to Geography was a hybrid text written in a dual narrative: first in a traditional “age of discoveries” narrative of the previous conservative-nationalist regime, and second in the obligatory Marxist-Leninist language of the later Sovietized regime. In 1999, the two rehabilitators of the text, György Perczel and Ferenc Probáld, were driven by different motivations (such as the return to a formerly glorious geographical tradition, or the selective confining of a discredited socialist past), but in both cases through a symbolic contestation of the author. This ultimately led to the arbitrarily reediting of the text, first by deleting its most compromising parts, second by reframing it in a “completed” form by “finishing” its historical span, and third by selectively and incompletely “translating” some of its burdened phrases into a partly de-ideologized language. My aim is to provide a layer-by-layer historical analysis of the text’s contexts, because without a dense hermeneutical and historical reinterpretation, we are entangled in the “hermeneutic trap” of Mendöl’s interwoven dual narrative. The last part of my presentation provides possible reinterpretations of the textbook’s triumphalist “age of discoveries” narrative and world historical, geopolitical imagination in light of the critical theories of anti-Eurocentric literature.
Max Weber gazdaságtörténeti és vallásszociológiai elemzéseiben széles körű áttekintést adott arról a nagy kérdésről, hogy miért éppen a „Nyugat” emelkedett ki a világtörténelem során. Híres hipotézise szerint a protestáns aszkézisben fellelhető gazdasági magatartásokra vezethető vissza, hogy végső soron „a Nyugaton, és csakis a Nyugat talaján” jöhetett létre a „racionális” kultúrán alapuló modern kapitalizmus. Ezzel szemben „Keleten” ennek hiánya tapasztalható: egész történelme során irracionalitás, gazdasági stagnálás és ún. orientális despotizmus uralkodott. Habár írt a konfucianizmusról, illetve a hindu és a zsidó vallásról, addig a kereszténységhez hasonlóan monoteista iszlámról tervezett nagy munkája sosem készülhetett el. A hazai társadalomtudományok azonban nem vettek tudomást Weber protestáns etikára visszavezetett, ideáltipikus kapitalista „szellemének” földrajzi alapjairól, holott ezek a weberi életmű fontos „preszociológiai” előfeltételezéseit képezték. Az előadás célja egyrészt bemutatni Weber hipotézisének földrajzi állításait, másrészt kritika alá vetni globális összehasonlító elemzéseinek eurocentrikus földrajzi képzeletét, és végül felfedni a korabeli geopolitikai, gyarmatbirodalmi viszonyokba ágyazódó társadalomtudományi tudástermelés diskurzív alapjait és ellentmondásait. Weber „progresszív Nyugat” és „merev Kelet” orientalista dichotómiájának dekonstruálása végül kiegészül az iszlámról közölt nézeteinek rövid áttekintésével és néhány politikai gazdasági példával is, rámutatva a gyarmatosításnak és az egyes régiók közötti globális kereskedelem történelmi hegemóniaviszonyainak elfedésére, valamint az orientális despotizmus és a keleti „bezárkózó” gazdaságok eurocentrikus mítoszaira. Az előadás célja ezzel a nemzetközi szakirodalomban jól ismert globális történetírás, valamint a posztkoloniális és dekoloniális megközelítések alapján a „klasszikus” szociológia tudáskánonjának dekolonizált olvasatát sürgetni.
Towards decolonizing “classical” sociology: The geographical critique of Max Weber’s eurocentric world history
In his economic history and sociology of religion, Max Weber presented an expansive account on the big question, why was it the “West” that emerged as dominant in world history. According to his famous hypothesis, ascetic Protestantism was the insufficient ingredient to why “in the West and only on Western soil” could the “rational” culture of modern capitalism evolve. In contrast, the “East” was only home to a range of absences: irrationality, economic stagnation and so-called oriental despotism reigned throughout its whole history. Although Weber had written on Confucianism, the Hindu and Jewish religions, his vast study on Islam, also a monotheism as Christianism, was never to be finished in full. However, Hungarian social sciences and the humanities did not pay any attention to the geographical foundations of Weber’s capitalist “spirit” and its supposed origins in the Protestant ethic, despite these being important “presociological” conceptions of his œuvre. The aim of this paper is first to present the geographical statements of Weber’s hypothesis; second, to criticize the Eurocentric geographical imagination behind his global comparative analysis; and finally, to elucidate the discoursive conditions and antagonisms of social scientific knowledge production embedded in its contemporary geopolitical and imperial-colonial context. The deconstruction of Weber’s orientalist dichotomy of a “progressive West” and “static East” is supplemented by a sketchy overview of his thoughts on Islam and some political economic examples, demonstrating the silences of colonialism and the changing hegemonic relations of interregional global trade, and also the myth of oriental despotism and the “closed” economies of Eastern economies. In sum, the aim with this critique is to provide and argue for a global historical, postcolonial and decolonial reading of the scientific canon of “classical” sociology.
The perhaps much overlooked geographical significance of recent social unrest in the USA related to the Black Lives Matter and various anti-racist and decolonial movements is how quickly they ’scaled up’ globally, sparking sharp debates in Eastern Europe for the first time. Although in the region these movements have been most often dismissed either as an ideological threat or simply irrelevant, still the discussions of colonial and racial memory politics have provoked intriguing questions about comparability. Since the 2010s, authoritarian right-wing regimes of populist nationalisms have constructed an imaginary dividing line between “former colonizer” Western and “non-colonizer” Eastern European countries, expressing fears of becoming Western “colonies” whilst victimizing their ‘peripheral whiteness’ in an identity politics of recognition. Stuck in an uncomfortable ’in-between’ position within global colonialism, Eastern Europeans have historically embraced colonial Europeanness and whiteness whilst excusing from its dark moral burden – ultimately producing contradictory silences in the region’s complicated racial and colonial history. How can we understand this semiperipheral Eastern European relation to global colonialism and racism? How can decolonialism, seemingly relevant only to the imperialist West and the postcolonial Global South, be also relevant to a region which is commonly known as “non-colonizer” and without colonial history? This paper aims to unpack Eastern European ‘frustrated whiteness’ through exploring a decolonial approach to this uneasy and contradictory semiperipheral position in global (post)colonialism.
Currently, I am represented by the Helsinki Committee in a Labor Court trial against the institution, because according to the project application the institute was supposed to hire me as an affiliated Assistant Researcher (which is a public servant position), but after registering me at the National Tax Office and signing me in as member of the institution, the director and employer, historian Pál Fodor denied to sign my contract after 1 month delay and agreed-upon work, and then the Principal Investigator kicked me out of the project. Prior to this, I was not in conflict with any of the project members and there was no evidence that I had hampered the project in any way. The Principal Investigator, Gábor Demeter admitted in public court on 23 January 2020 that he had supplied informal “references” on my “bad” scholarship – without my knowledge – to the director and that someone had “phoned in” to ask that I not be employed at the institution. Behind this informal reason – which was affirmed in public press (index.hu, kettosmerce.hu, read the Kettős Mérce article in English) – was that the institution received a non-public Facebook comment of mine leaked to the institution by an individual from our personal debate in which I expressed my despise for the person’s neoliberal social-Darwinist statement “homelessness is due to the lack of money instincts” (for details, read my blog post in Hungarian).
Below you can read the basic text of our research application (see .pdf); it also had other attachments and was uploaded in different parts via an official form. I was not responsible for making the final editing and uploading of the text, the latter was the responsibility of the Principal Investigator. My contribution to the research project was the application of postcolonial theory and world-systems analysis to the case study of Hungarian Balkanism in order to understand it as part of a semiperipheral trajectory within global colonialism. My empirical input was to look at geographers and geographical knowledge production in Hungarian imperialism and colonialism in the Balkans. I’ve highlighted in the text all unedited parts that have been written only by me, and represent my own academic research and intellectual property. I never allowed my intellectual contribution to be used without my permission solely for others’ financial gain at the expense of my basic rights and material interests.
Since the incident, I’ve presented (or will present) my thesis and concept at:
– in a forthcoming book chapter entitled “Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans” for a Routledge volume edited by Manuela Boatca;
– in another manuscript to be submitted to a Q1 journal (title not indicated here due to double-blind peer review);
My application for an ethical procedure was denied by the Academy on the grounds that there is already an ongoing court trial, and my letters to the institution and the president of the Academy asking to resolve this incident in 2018 were simply left unanswered. Despite that I was working as a researcher in the 1989 After 1989 and the Socialism Goes Global international research projects, and the Academy’s research institution was their project partner, the institution denied to provide me with a permission for archival research (only Hungarian institutions are allowed to provide such). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court trial has been delayed, and justice has not yet been done.
I hereby turn to the international academic community to ask for solidarity statements indicating that such unethical acts violate basic scientific norms and should not be tolerated in academia.If you agree with the above, please express your concerns and share this post widely.
52nd Annual ASEEES Convention, Washington, D.C., November 5–8
Convenor: Árpád von Klimó (The Catholic University of America, DC, USA)
Discussant: Steve Jobbitt (Lakehead University, Canada)
Chair: Judith Szapor (McGill University, Canada)
Decolonization became a major debate since the 1960s, complicating Cold War Culture and challenging the West’s claim for moral superiority and human rights policies. Communist countries like Hungary began to engage in diplomatic campaigns with the double aim at convincing new states in Africa and Asia to support the Soviet sphere instead of the West and to undermine the image of many Western states by focusing criticism on their colonial past or involvement in colonial wars or support of anticommunist authoritarian regimes. After the Algerian War, it was the Vietnam War and the support of the fight of “liberation” movements which became one of the most important ideological and practical battle fields for the new version of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist propaganda, aimed at domestic as well as international (UNO, UNESCO, IOC, other world sports organizations) and transnational audiences (Africa, Asia, Western Europe, USA). During this time, and increasingly since the Second Vatican Council, colonialism and post-colonial critique became an intensifying debate also among Catholics all over the world, not only in relation to Latin America and Liberation Theology. In the world of sports, Hungarian functionaries and athletes also participated. Similar new ideological debates erupted in the international networks of academia and the sciences, as the example of the Hungarian noble laureate (Chemistry), Albert Szent-Györgyi, demonstrates.
We are still at the beginning to study the questions related to these complex problems. Our panel will attempt to clarify some of the assumptions and research problems related to the connection between Cold War politics, decolonization, Hungarian and Vatican diplomacy. The papers of this panel show that the outcome and results of the anti-colonialist activities and debates were often contradictory.
The Soviet Union, the United States and Nuclear Fear: Albert Szent-Györgyi’s Political Life, 1945–1973
Ádám Farkas (Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary)
Albert Szent-Györgyi was a popular public figure after the WWII and he was expected to become the President of Hungary. He was saved by the Soviets, spent two months in the Soviet Union and was one of the founders of the Hungarian- Soviet Cultural Association. The non-communist Nobel laureate scientist worked together actively with the Soviets to rebuild the Hungarian cultural life. As he became dissatisfied with the political changes, he emigrated to the United States in 1947. Since the mid-1960s he turned to the politics again, he spoke out against the Vietnam War. He criticized the US government and urged to cooperate with the Soviet Union for peace. But for Szent-Györgyi it was never the criticism of the imperialistic intentions. Like many of his scientific colleagues, he was deeply concerned about the destructive uses of scientific knowledge. Szent-Györgyi turned to civil and political rights, peace and antiwar movements. His writings (The Crazy Ape, What next?, Science, ethics and politics, Lost in the 20th century) became standard works in the antinuclear movement. His perception of the superpowers changed once again, and in his eyes the Soviet Union somehow appeared as a following example for the United States. His image was rehabilitated in Hungary and visited the country in 1973. The paper investigates Szent-Györgyi’s involvement in politics, his changing attitudes to the superpowers and the social movements related to Eastern Bloc and the West. Drawing on oral history, memoirs and archival materials, the study reflects on ideology, rebellion and political belief.
Connecting the Local to the Global in the Cold War: Hungary’s Contribution to Western Colonialist Sport Practices in the International Olympic Committee, 1960s–1989
Johanna Mellis (Ursinus College, USA)
For part of my book manuscript, I am exploring socialist Hungary’s work with the International Olympic Committee (which was and is a colonialist organization). Sport leaders from Hungary and the other Eastern Bloc countries helped to ‘decolonize’ the IOC in some regards, by bringing in and working more with sport leaders from African and Asian countries. But they also worked hard to uphold the IOC’s discriminatory ‘Amateur Rule,’ which forbade athletes from receiving commercial sponsorships for their sport endeavors. Eastern Bloc sport leaders did this in order to protect the state-supported sport systems back home from scrutiny (to continue giving athletes prized material privileges and prevent them from defecting to the West). But their efforts also severely restricted athletes in non-authoritarian countries from getting the money they needed to train, compete, etc., and thus contributed – even if inadvertently – to the discriminatory policies of the sport body.
Anticommunism, Decolonization and the Vatican: Cardinal Mindszenty in Portugal (1972)
Árpád von Klimó (The Catholic University of America, DC, USA)
On October 11, 1972, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church in exile, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, arrived in Portugal, for a one week-long visit. On the next day, Mindszenty was at the center of an extensive program of prayer, rosaries and masses at the Shrine of Fatima. He celebrated High Mass in front of approx. 250,000 people. The Hungarian Cardinal in his short speech emphasized that the Fatima secrets” were also addressed at him, who suffered from “Russia … spreading error over the world”, that is: a Communist system which oppressed the church. Mindszenty had been a symbol of anticommunist resistance since his incarceration in 1949, and his 15-year long stay at the US Embassy in Budapest (1956-71). With Portugal, he visited a country with an authoritarian regime that was increasingly justifying its existence with anticommunism. The colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea (1961–75) had ruined the finances of Portugal and the high number of victims and the suffering of Portuguese troops, similar to Vietnam, had contributed to the undermining of the regime that claimed to adhere to Catholic teaching, while the Vatican and progressive Catholics increasingly challenged its ideology. My paper studies the visit of Mindszenty in relation to the wider political context, the changing understanding of colonialism among the Vatican and Portuguese Catholics, the Cold War conflict related to Communist Hungary and the West, based on documents from Mindszenty’s private archive in Budapest (Mindszenty Foundation), from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, as well from a variety of other primary sources.
The Clash of Colonialisms: The Race Between Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Anti-Colonialism in the Third World
Zoltán Ginelli (Independent Scholar, Hungary)
This paper explores how Hungarians on both sides of the Iron Curtain opened up to Afro-Asian decolonisation through competing constructions of Eastern European semiperipheral postcoloniality to be shared with the Third World. State-socialist Hungary struggled to open up via socialist globalisation against Western protectionism, and developed anti-colonialism against Western Empire and solidarity towards emerging postcolonies. The stakes were high, because Hungarian anti-communist political refugees in the West were already racing to first develop anti-colonial solidarity towards postcolonial countries and persuade them against “Soviet colonialism”. Backed by the USA, Hungarian ex-premier Ferenc Nagy successfully popularised this critique in the International Peasant Union and the Assembly of Captive European Nations, and during his Asian trip (1954) managed to manipulate the first Third World conference in Bandung (1955). In the race for recognition, the communist leadership in Hungary was losing initiative. After the 1956 revolution, Hungarian communists struggled to persuade Third World countries in the United Nations to vote against the Western condemnation of the Soviet invasion, and post-Stalinist Khrushchevian opening up policy allowed them to seek recognition by exporting the “Hungarian development model” to the Third World. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah looked to the socialist world to relieve Western dependency and in 1962 requested the Hungarian economist József Bognár to develop the newly decolonised African country’s First Seven-Year Plan. While Hungarian refugee experts like Imre Kovács were working as anti-communist reform advisors in Latin America and Asia, Bognár’s Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) promoted export-oriented growth to reposition and integrate state-socialist Hungary in the global economy.
Is there a postcolonial Hungary? This project focuses on situating Hungary’s historical development in the global histories of colonialism and anti-colonialism. It interrogates the revival of colonial discourse in the region and explores how it displaced a politics of Western transition and convergence by reconstructing the histories of Hungarian colonial discourse and self-positioning in the world economic system.
Postcolonial studies have been preoccupied with the global economic centre and periphery, but the complex historical relations, experiences and epistemologies of Eastern European and Hungarian colonialism and imperialism have been remarkably silenced (Mayblin et al. 2016; Mark and Slobodian 2018; Grzechnik 2019). Meanwhile, new research has shown that Cold War epistemological heritage rendered connections between postsocialism and postcolonialism problematic (Chari and Verdery 2008; Gille 2010; Mayblin et al. 2016), and East-West convergence discourse has marginalised historical relations between Eastern Europe and the Global South (Mark and Apor 2015; Mark and Slobodian 2018; Muehlenbeck and Telepneva 2018; Mark et al. 2020; Stanek 2020). Following a global historical and world-systemic perspective, this research introduces the concept of semiperipheral post/coloniality to unpack Hungarian coloniality in the long-term historical context of integrating into the world economy, thereby offering a structuralist critique of constructivist approaches to postcolonialism (e.g. Wolff 1994; Bakić-Hayden 1995; Todorova 1997). The Hungarian semiperipheral integration to the hierarchical system of the global division of labour has generated structural path-dependencies (uneven exchange, indebtedness, financing technology) (Márk et al. 2014), which resulted in global manoeuvring to gain comparative advantages between the (former) colonising centre and the (former) colonised periphery. This led to an uneasy and often antagonistic in-betweeness in the context of global hierarchies: being superior coloniser but oppressed colonised; catching up to and benefiting from but contesting the colonial centre; bridging or allying to but demarcating from the periphery. This project seeks to reconstruct the history of such a semiperipheral Eastern European country in order to understand the new political stakes in the revival of colonial discourse in current Hungarian politics.
Before WWII, Hungarian colonialist-imperialist ambitions followed nationalist and global racial-civilisational aspirations, but pragmatically developed East-West in-betweenness and uneasy criticism towards the imperialist West. Local experiences of peripheralisation, underdevelopment and out-migration forged sympathy with those in a similarly subservient position within the colonial system, but there also evolved alternative colonialisms of semiperipheral expansion and racial supremacy (e.g. Balkanism, Orientalism, Turanism). After WWII, state-socialist anti-colonial solidarity contested geopolitical fault-lines and Western European protectionism (1957), but Hungarian trajectories were driven by pragmatic, state-led foreign policy aims to lever Soviet and Western “dual dependency” (Böröcz 1992) by opening to Afro-Asian decolonisation. Amidst fears of international isolation (Péteri 2012), the post-1956 Hungarian alliance-building and global positioning encouraged to encounter coloniality through socialist internationalism (Mark and Apor 2015; Mark et al. 2020). Hungary re-opened to the decolonised periphery with “civilisational” desires to export the “Hungarian model” and develop markets to counter the global centre, whilst the periphery contributed to Hungarian “third way” state-centred and semi-capitalist export-oriented growth as a new integration strategy during the 1960s New Economic Mechanism (Ginelli 2017, 2018). On the other hand, rivalling narratives clashed between state-socialist anti-Western anti-colonialism and émigré “Soviet colonialism” in the Non-Aligned postcolonial world about how to incorporate Hungary and Eastern Europe into global colonialism.
After 1989, Hungary as part of the former Second World lost its global ideological privileges and Afro-Asian connections, and experienced third-worldification by becoming the core’s “undeveloped” region. The postsocialist “return to Europe” and self-colonising neoliberal “transition” silenced anti-colonial critique against the West (or the EU) (Böröcz 2009), and resulted in “postsocialist amnesia” on former relations with the global postcolonial world and in racial realignment with whiteness (Böröcz and Sarkar 2017; Mark et al. 2019). After the 2008 crisis, Viktor Orbán’s increasingly authoritarian “illiberal” turn from 2010 on sought to globally reposition Hungary against the “failed liberalism” of Western transition. Apart from various political regionalisms (“classical Europe”, “Central Europe”, “Eurasia”) (Balogh 2015; 2017), this geopolitical manoeuvring produced a new colonial discourse which positioned Hungary against the liberal, Atlantic-Western colonial-imperial centre (“Brussels is the new Moscow”, “we never had colonies”, “we will not become colonies”), while constructing selective racial-civilisational demarcation from the periphery in anti-migration discourse, and appropriating global colonial history exclusively for Eastern European nationalist victimisation. This Hungarian semiperipheral postcolonial identity politics not only exploits the country’s silenced historical experiences of coloniality (Ottoman: 1526, Habsburg: 1848, Trianon: 1920, Soviet: 1949, 1956), but also functions in the semiperipheral re-adaptation to current hegemonic shifts in the world economy. Hungary’s “Eastern turn” to the New Silk Road exploits Turanist Orientalism towards Central Asia, “illiberalism” and “Christian democracy” functions in developing new global alliance networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, while the reaffirmation of European whiteness and appropriation of colonial history aims to exclude Afro-Asian postcolonial competition for benefits in the European Union.
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Why is Eastern Europe still on the margins of colonial history? This historical silence is partly due to Western knowledge hegemony, but partly because Eastern Europeans have routinely positioned themselves as “always colonised” but “never having colonies”, thereby victimising themselves and denying their historical participation in global colonialism. Under “colonial rule” since Ottoman occupation (1526), but later as part of the Habsburg Empire, from the mid-19th century on, Hungarians increasingly sought in their contested, in-between semiperipheral position to open up to global colonialism. This process may be demonstrated by the Asian expeditions of János Xántus (1825–1894), one of the most famed Hungarian natural scientists of the 19th century.
Zoologist and ethnographer, Xántus was founding contributor to the Hungarian National Museum, corresponding fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1859), founder and first director of the first Hungarian zoo (1866) and the Ethnographic Museum (1872), and founding member of the Hungarian Geographical Society (1872). He became a political refugee due to serving as officer in the failed 1848–49 Hungarian war of independence from the Habsburg Empire, in the 1850s and early 1860s he was drawn into North American expeditions, wrote about the culture and colonial subjugation of Indians, and developed a vast network to transfer specimens regularly back to Hungary. Upon his final return to Hungary, he was given the opportunity after the Austro-Hungarian compromise (1867) to participate in a series of imperial expeditions to East and Southeast Asia during 1868–71, which included Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, Java, China, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Borneo. Austrians had planned to open up to the East since 1860, but expeditions were delayed due to internal conflicts, the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866, and the execution of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian in Mexico in 1967. The Austro-Hungarian expedition was to develop foreign trade relations and secure colonial positions in Southeast and East Asia with the opening of the Suez Canal (1869). However, the expedition did not fulfil its promise, and was torn by internal political tensions between Austrian and Hungarian counterparts: as a “1848er” independence fighter, Xántus struggled to have the expedition serve Hungarian national interests against Austrian suppression.
This paper gives a postcolonialist, critical geographical, and global historical re-interpretation of this expedition based on the travel writing of Xántus published during 1877–1886. Against the dominantly biographical and documentary accounts on Xántus, which follow institutional or nationalist legitimation logics in presenting his “heroic” figure (focusing on his collections, personality and merits), this study instead engages with his activities in colonial networks, his descriptions of local industry and European export ambitions, and his global comparative ideas about colonialism and race, including comparisons between his local Hungarian, Eastern European, and Asian experiences. Whilst Xántus was known for his humanist critique of colonialism and solidarity with the colonially suppressed (especially in the case of North American Indians), his Asian travelogues shed light on his staunch support for the European colonial system, and how his activities relied on and contributed to national and imperial power networks and interests. In Borneo, he praised British colonialism against the Dutch, who “achieved success by resorting to the iron rod, absolute tyranny, and treaded ruthlessly upon all human rights (…), while England introduced to all its colonies English self-government, and shared its own freedoms with the conquered”. As a prolific writer, he constructed his reporting credibility through various modalities, references, and practices, and contributed to a positive geographical imagination of the “fresh” and “juvenile” tropics ripe for exploration and exposed to masculine colonial practices of overcoming nature. Swaying between imperialist Eurocentrism and anti-Eurocentric criticism, his depictions of the East fitted into the wider colonial discourse of European Orientalism, but through an Eastern European eye. His travelogues detailed the global political economy of the Hungarian diaspora, such as plantation workers, officers, traders, or the global remittance network of Gypsy and Sekler (székely) entertainers from Transylvania.
In a wider historical context, the expedition of Xántus not only tells us much about how Hungarian geographical knowledge production was embedded in global colonialism, but also demonstrates the shift from reproducing dominantly Western geographic images of Asia towards developing an expansionist Hungarian Orientalism and Eurasian geopolitical vision between the late 19th and the mid-20th centuries. The newer generation of expeditions, such as by Benedek Baráthosi Balogh, Béla Széchenyi, Lajos Lóczy, Jenő Cholnoky, János Kovrig, or Viktor Keöpe, increasingly imagined Asia within a Turanist vision, an overarching geographical-cultural ideology of Hungarian-Asian racial brotherhood, which served as a semiperipheral imperialist globalisation strategy to counter or bypass Habsburg dependency and Western imperialism.
Xántus, through his popular figure as a prolific field-working scientist and a “national hero” who fought against the Habsburgs in 1848, was among the few “bourgeois” explorers to be early rehabilitated in the Communist era, since Habsburg rule was interpreted as a form of colonialism, and this history facilitated relations with decolonising Afro-Asian countries after WWII. But even today, discussion of Hungarian explorers’ colonialist and racist attitudes are absent from national collective memory, and as recent Chinese expansion with the New Silk Road and One Belt One Road macroprojects has reignited the Hungarian Orientalist heritage in culture and foreign policy, perhaps it is timely to re-evaluate the colonial history of Hungarian relations to Asia.
 Ginelli, Z. (forthcoming): Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans. Manuscript.
 This paper also builds on the Xántus collection organized by the research project of János Gyarmati, “The Austro-Hungarian East Asia Expedition and the Collection of János Xántus”.
 Xántus, J. (1880): Borneo szigetén 1870-ben tett utazásomról. Földrajzi Közlemények, 8: 153–219. p. 156.
 Xántus, J. (1879): Uti emlékeim Singapoore és vidékéről. Győr: Özv. Bauervein Gézáné. p. 35–36.
In postcolonial studies, Eastern Europe’s colonial experiences and ambitions have been routinely silenced in the literature’s focus on (post)colonial centres and peripheries. The region remains largely absent from mainstream textbooks, which is indicative not only of Western academics’ ignorance and knowledge imperialism, but also of Eastern European authors’ relative neglect or inability to contribute. In Hungarian history, the country has been routinely positioned as colonized victim without any significant colonizer role in global history. Recently, this argument has been forcefully taken up by the (far) right-wing government’s political discourse, which has mobilized decolonial arguments to critique “Western imperialists”, while nationalism has sparked nostalgia towards Hungarian imperial “high times” and reignited racism towards the global periphery.
In postcolonial literature on Eastern Europe, the relationship between the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Balkans is a relatively well-developed context. Nevertheless, Austria’s participation in global colonialism has been recurrently denied by expanding on the country’s neutral role during and after WWII, which was opportunistically used to develop good relations with the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition, the recent focus on Austrian colonialism has left Hungarian colonial activities and ambitions as part of the Empire unexplored. During the socialist era, the narrative of Habsburg colonialism – following anti-German sentiment – was used to position Hungary as part of the colonized world during Afro-Asian decolonization, but Hungarian historical participation in colonialist and imperialist projects, such as towards the Balkans, have been simultaneously de-emphasized. These silences still produce huge biases in current Hungarian attitudes, politics, and historical memory. In recent years, Hungarian scholars have been producing detailed accounts of the imperialist ambitions of the Hungarian Kingdom towards the Balkans, but only in Hungarian (or perhaps German), and these remained rather descriptive and unreflective of postcolonial epistemology or global structural analysis.
This paper interprets Hungarian Balkanism in a global historical and world-systemic perspective as part of global colonialism. It argues that the literature’s uneasiness of applying postcolonialism to the region relies on a false fixation on the hegemonic Western-Atlantic concept of global colonial history, which may be resolved by acknowledging the transnational nature of colonialism and examining Eastern Europe’s in-between semiperipheral position in the capitalist world-system and in global colonial history. The paper aims to critique the constructivist and relational postcolonial epistemology of Balkanism (varieties of Orientalism), and the various Eastern European typologies (“continental”, “internal”, “semi-“, “small” imperialism/colonialism) and geographical biases in postcolonial studies, to look at how Hungarian colonialism towards the Balkans from the mid-19th century served in world-systemic linking-delinking strategies, and in relieving structural dependencies. Finally, it looks at the discursive continuities of Balkanism as a form of semiperipheral imperialism: how the government’s nationalist identity politics and global maneuvering (“Eastern Opening”) affected Hungarian Balkanists’ public nostalgia for the imperial “boom era” and their contested relations to Islam.
Book chapter proposal for Political Ecology in Eastern Europe, edited by Eszter Krasznai Kovács
This chapter provides a critical overview of how Hungarian human geography developed since 1989, by showing the long-term continuities and structural shifts in local intellectual positions and knowledge epistemologies from a world-systemic perspective, reflecting on how structural dependencies have shaped local knowledge production strategies and disciplinary identity politics in a semiperipheral context. This account offers a perspective on how institutional settings and narrative networks developed according to the various rounds of Hungarian geographers’ semiperipheral integration and re-integration into hegemonic knowledge structures from the late socialist era to neoliberal “return to Europe” and European Union accession, until today’s post-2010 authoritarianism and “global opening”.
In this context, this chapter focuses on how “critical geography” in Hungary was defined and why has its formulation ultimately failed? Can we identify “critical geography” at all compared to its original Western conception? What might be the challenges for any “critical geography” after the 2008 crisis and the authoritarian “illiberal” turn since 2010? These questions are explored through insights from the history and sociology of scientific knowledge, including epistemic strategies of academic provincialism, connectivity, entitlement and gatekeeping. The literature on the geographies of knowledge elucidates the selective circulation, inclusion/exclusion dynamics and local interpretation of Western approaches to human geography, in order to understand how they got positioned and translated into local knowledge interests with very different social and political functions in a semiperipheral structural context. The chapter points out that Hungarian authors either completely dismissed or unreflectively reproduced the Anglo-American postpositivist canon through narrative and epistemological dependency, evading critical self-reflection, historically contextualized and comparative engagement with Anglo-American and Hungarian geography in the “knowledge transfer” of “catching up” to the West.
Meanwhile, amidst the global rise of conservative nationalist authoritarianism, recent Hungarian government attacks against leftism, liberalism, Marxism, feminism and gender studies, race studies, the “1968 generation” and the 1989–2010 liberal period have complicated the interpretive context of West-imported “critical geographies”. The “illiberal” Christian-nationalist Kulturkampf revived geopolitics and global historical approaches (e.g. turn to Asia), while mischievously appropriated postpositivist criticism, postmodernist representational and identity politics, and postcolonial or decolonial ideas as molded into nationalist victimization, anti-Western or anti-EU rhetoric, civilizational exceptionalism and color-blind racism. This chapter aims to critically reflect on how East-West knowledge dependencies in geography constrain meaningful criticism of these processes, and argue for re-evaluating Hungarian “critical geography” based on a historically and geographically self-reflexive world-systemic engagement with the (de)colonization and self-colonization of geographical knowledge.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the 2018 Turkic Council in Cholpon Ata (Source: merce.hu)
“We will not become colonies” – so goes the official statement of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has since 2010 been labeling his government an “illiberal democracy” or recently “Christian democracy”, whilst revitalizing anti-Western nationalist victimization against both postsocialist neoliberalization and the European Union, and drawing up civilizational-racial demarcation against the global periphery. The political analyses of Orbán’s authoritarian turn have dominantly focused on identifying this “new type” of authoritarianism: whether and to what extent it is democratic, what political typology it fits into (e.g. “hybrid regimes” or “semi-authoritarian regimes”), or how is it embedded in a global rightwing turn or a new neoliberal or neoconservative authoritarianism. However, these institutionalist approaches are geographically unreflective and inherently conceptualize from the lack of democracy and Western values, thereby reproducing East-West dichotomies and local self-colonization, failing to understand the local historical epistemologies and experiences Orbán’s political regionalism (“classical” Europe, Central Europe, Eurasia) and colonial discourse is based upon. The seemingly “irreconcilable” and “antagonistic” positions of this political discourse have specific functions connected to the new geographical alliances and scalar politics of Hungarian semiperipheral world-systemic integration. This paper analyses Hungarian political discourse from a postcolonial and world-systemic perspective to understand the semiperipheral geographical positioning of the country in-between the global center and periphery.