The Semiperipheral Positioning Politics of the Hungarian Authoritarian Turn

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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.

Reklámok

The Semiperipheral Colonial Alternative: Visions of Hungarian Catholic Postcoloniality in Latin America

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This paper explores the trajectories of the Hungarian Jesuit missionary Béla Bangha (1880–1940) and his priest compatriot, Zoltán Nyisztor (1893–1979) in constructing a distinctively semiperipheral strategy of positioning post-Trianon (1920) Hungary in a global colonial vision connected to postcolonial Latin America. This analysis looks at their various writings, including Bangha’s articles and South American travelogue (1934), and Nyisztor’s papers, autobiographies and travel memoirs (1969; 1971; 1973; 1975; 1978) written in emigration. In interwar Hungary, they were both important leaders of the Catholic revitalization movement and their „militant Catholicism” held staunchly racist, anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semitic views (Nyisztor followed Ferenc Szálasi’s national-socialist, pro-Nazi Nyilas Movement). After 1920, the Trianon trauma of loosing Hungarian imperial hegemony and 2/3 of territory led to various repositioning strategies; Bangha and Nyisztor as travelling intellectuals opened up global arguments from the non-European world. In his South American travelogue (1934), Bangha fantasized about open and spiritually fertile (post)colonial spaces in Latin America, positioning the Hungarian Jesuit heritage of Indian reductions in the 17th century as ideal foundations for national revitalization, racial brotherhood and missionary expansion. This was posed against the colonial-imperialist, racially perilous Protestant mode of spiritless North American (Western) modern capitalism, thereby countering the dominant Western/Atlantic/Protestant narrative of global colonial history by channelling Hungarian ambitions into emancipating the silenced Southern colonial history. Bangha and Nyisztor developed racial visions of a decadent Indian race, which could only be saved by a white influx of racial mixing and Catholic civilizing, supported by an organized local Hungarian colonist diaspora – consisting in part of post-Trianon emigrants – through missionary activity. This paper aims to show their inherent semiperipheral dynamics of positioning Hungary in-between the global centre and periphery via a global colonial discourse connecting racial ideas from the non-European post-colonies with local Hungarian discussions of racial struggle and white supremacy.

 

Keywords: semiperipheral post/coloniality, white race, global colonial history, Hungarian Catholicism, Latin America

Socialist Worlds on Screen: Beyond Black and White

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Download poster and program.

Film Festival

Cinema Union (Bucharest, 24–27 June 2019)

The history of internationalism was quickly forgotten following the fall of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe. But now these stories are surfacing once again, fascinating a new generation alive to conflicts over peoples and cultures on the move in today’s global order and seeking fresh takes on the past. This festival presents a rich and exciting range of films inspired by ideas of revolution, national liberation, and solidarity between socialist Eastern Europe and the Global South. We bring the Romanian audience stories from Cuba, Angola, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, and the former Yugoslavia—stories that explore belonging, border-crossing, and belief in radical change. Several of the directors featured were themselves internationalist migrants in the socialist era—men and women from the Global South who brought their talents to the socialist East. All bring visions of socialist worlds that shatter the easy black and white categories of the Cold War and raise important questions about what it means to be international, and in solidarity, then and now.

The event is organized within the project “Socialism Goes Global: Connections between the ‘Second’ and the ‘Third’ Worlds” an initiative implemented by Universities of Exeter, Oxford, Leipzig, Columbia, Belgrade, University College London and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). The curator of the festival is Prof. Kristin Roth-Ey (UCL).

The festival’s partners are: the Romanian National Film Archives – Cinemateca Română, British Council, French Institute (Bucharest), La Cinémathèque Afrique, Russian Centre for Science and Culture, Embassy of Cuba in Bucharest, ‘Respiro’- Human Rights Research Centre and Association ArtViva.

The films will be subtitled in Romanian and English or French.

Each film will be introduced before the screening by a special guest.

All films will be screened at Cinema Union (Ion Câmpineanu street, no 21, Bucharest, Romania). For tickets: kompostor.ro or the ticket booths at cinemas Union and Eforie.

Monday, June 24

18.30

The Teacher (El Brigadista) – Cuba, 1978, 111 minutes, subtitles in Romanian and English, feature film.

Director: Octavio Cortázar

Introduction (10 mins) by Vladimir Smith Mesa (UCL).

The film presents the literacy campaign in the early days of the Cuban revolution (1961) in order to explore the socialist “civilising mission” of the new regime in rural regions. The conflict between past and present holds centre stage along with the impact of the new regime on the social and gender identities of the main characters. The director, Octavio Cortázar studied film at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU).

The film received the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and the director was nominated for the Golden Bear (1978).

 

20.40

The First Teacher (Pervyy uchitel) – Russia, 1965, 102 minutes, subtitles in Romanian and English, feature film.

Director: Andrei Konchalovsky.

Introduction (10 mins) by Kristin Roth-Ey (UCL).

The first movie by director Andrei Konchalovsky based on a novel by Chingiz Aitmatov, who also wrote the screenplay. It presents the literacy campaign in Kyrgyzstan, focusing on the clash between generations and the conflicting identities (religious, gender, political etc.) triggered by the cultural-political offensive of the Soviet regime in the region.

Best director at Jussi Awards (Finland, 1973); nomination for the Golden Lion and Cupa Vopli (best actress) at the Venice Film Festival (1966).

 

Tuesday June 25

20.00

Guardian of the Frontier (Varuh meje) – Slovenia-Germany, 2002, 100 minutes, subtitles in Romanian and English, full feature.

Director: Maia Weiss.

Introduction (10 mins) by Catherine Baker (University of Hull).

The story of a canoeing trip by three students on the river Kolpa that separates Slovenia and Croatia and the conflict between their values determined by alternative views of society and tradition (e.g., gay identity) and the conservatism of local nationalist politician. The film focuses on the fluid identities and the new symbolic and physical frontiers of post-socialism – the fate of Chinese migrants in Eastern Europe is an important theme.

The Manfred Salzgeber Award at the International Film Festival in Berlin; the best actress and best director awards at the Slovene Film Festival; nomination for the director in the category “European Discovery” at the European Film Awards (2002).

 

Wednesday, June 26

20.00

October – 1992, Mauritania, 38 minutes, black and white, subtitles in Romanian and French, short film.

The second film by director Adberrahmane Sissako (well-known for works such as Bamako and Timbuktu) presents the love story of Idrissa, an African student in Moscow, and Ira (a young Russian woman). Their drama fleshes out the everyday challenges of human and revolutionary solidarities between the Soviet Union and African countries. Between 1983 and 1989, Adberrahmane Sissako studied at the All-Union State Film Institute in Moscow.

Nominated for the category “Un certain regard” at the Cannes Film Festival (1993); the best short film at the International Film Festival in Amiens (1994).

 

20.55

Rostov-Luanda – 1997, Mauritania, 60 minutes, subtitles in Romanian and French, documentary.

Director Adberrahmane Sissako and a former fighter in the Angolan national liberation war, whom he originally met in 1980 in Rostov-on-Don, embark on a journey across Angola and Benin, sixteen years later, searching for a former friend from their student years in the Soviet Union. The film analyses revolutionary hope and its disillusion from the post-independence period in Africa as well as the individual destinies of those caught in the maelstrom of history.

Special mention at the Festival of French-Speaking Film in Namur (Belgium), 1998.

Both films will be introduced (15 mins) by Kristin Roth-Ey (UCL).

 

Thursday, June 27

19.00

Monangambé – 1969, Algeria-Angola, 18 minutes, subtitles in Romanian and English, black and white, short film.

Director: Sarah Maldoror.

Introduction (5 mins) by Iolanda Vasile (University of Coimbra)

The title of the film is the cry of terror uttered by Angolan peasants upon finding out that Portuguese slave traders were near. It was re-appropriated as a rallying call by the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola fighting against Portuguese colonial rule. The short film tells everyday stories of the anti-colonial struggle. It is the first film by director Sarah Maldoror, who studied at the All-Union State Film Institute in Moscow and is widely considered the matriarch of African cinema.

Screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.

 

19.50

Cuba, An African Odyssey – 2007 – France-UK, 118 minutes, subtitles in Romanian and English, documentary.

Director – Jihan El Tahri.

Introduction (10 mins) by Kristin Roth-Ey (UCL).

The documentary, sponsored by Arte and BBC Films, presents the story of the Cuban military assistance to national liberation movements in Africa from the 1960s to the end of the Cold War. The film shows the central role played by Cuba in Africa’s decolonisation and in wars such as those in Angola and Ethiopia, emphasizing the fusion between socialism, anti-imperialism, and nationalism.

Awards: Vues d’Afrique de Montréal and FESPACO (2007); Sunny Side of the Docs, Marseilles (2006).

Postcolonial Hungary: The Positioning Politics of Semiperipheral Post/Coloniality

Jon Brett

I am thrilled to have applied for the “Dialoguing Between the Posts 2.0” workshop entitled “(Im)possible Dialogue Between the Progressive Forces of the ‘Posts’”. The interactive workshop is organized by Sanja Petkovska and Špela Drnovsek Zorko, with generous support from the Centre for Cultural Studies and Connecting Cultures at the University of Warwick, and will be held on 15 June, 2019 in Belgrade at the Faculty of Political Sciences. My proposal for contributing is a general overview of my “Postcolonial Hungary” project, with a focus on the current political stakes and potentials of understanding Hungarian colonial discourse in a long-term historical perspective of semiperipheral world-systemic integration.

Abstract

Is there a postcolonial Hungary? While postcolonial studies have been preoccupied with the global economic center and periphery, the complex historical relations, experiences and epistemologies of Hungarian colonialism and imperialism have been remarkably silenced. This paper introduces the concept of semiperipheral post/coloniality to unfold Hungarian coloniality in the long-term historical context of integrating into the world economy, and offer a structuralist critique of constructivist approaches to postcolonialism. Hungarian semiperipheral integration articulated an uneasy and antagonistic in-between positioning dynamic: being colonizer but colonized, catching up to but contesting the center, bridging to but demarcating from the periphery. Historically, Hungarian colonialist-imperialist ambitions followed nationalist and global racial-civilizational aspirations, but pragmatically developed East-West in-betweenness and uneasy criticism against the imperialist West. After WWII, state-socialist anti-colonial solidarity contested geopolitical fault-lines and European Economic Community (1957) protectionism, but were driven by pragmatic, state-led foreign policy aims to lever East-West double dependency by opening to Afro-Asian decolonization. The postsocialist “return to Europe” and neoliberal “transition” silenced both anti-colonial critique and previous cultural-economic relations to the postcolonial world, resulting in “postsocialist amnesia”. After 2010, Orbán’s increasingly authoritarian “illiberal” turn repositioned Hungary in its “global opening”. Geopolitical maneuvering produced a new colonial discourse by positioning Hungary against the liberal, Atlantic-Western colonial-imperial center of the European Union, while constructing selective racial-civilizational demarcation from the periphery, and appropriating global colonial history for Hungarian victimization. The postcolonial identity politics of “we never had colonies” and “we will not become colonies”, and that globalization, multiculturalism and migration is the responsibility of former imperialists feeds the nationalist “defense” of sovereignty, but functions to readapt to ongoing hegemonic shifts in the world economy by exploiting Hungary’s silenced but complex experiences of coloniality. This paper explores the neglected long-term historical continuities and political stakes in the revival of this colonial discourse in current Hungarian politics.

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Historicizing “Whiteness” in Eastern Europe and Russia

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Venue: Institute for Political Research, Spiru Haret street no 8, Bucharest, 010175

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Tuesday, June 25

9.15–9.30 – Welcome remarks

9.30–10.45 Keynote – Anikó Imre (University of Southern California)
Colorblind Nationalisms

10.45–11.00 – Coffee break

11.00–12.40 – Colonialism and Imagining the Self in Eastern Europe

Chair/Discussant: Steffi Marung (University of Leipzig)

Monika Bobako (Adam Mickiewicz University)
White Skin, White Masks. Re-reading Frantz Fanon from Eastern European Perspective

Zoltán Ginelli (Open Society Archives)
Hungarian Indians: Racial and Anti-colonial Solidarity in Post-Trianon Hungary

Marianna Szczygielska (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Engendering Wildlife and Whiteness: Elephants, Ivory and Zoos (1870s–1940s)

12.45–14.15 – Lunch

14.20–16.00 – Eastern European Whiteness and the Other: Race, Religion and Gender

Chair/Discussant: Agnieszka Kościańska (University of Warsaw)

Kristína Čajkovičová (Museum of Romani Culture in Brno)
Shifting to the Gadžo Question: The Role of Racialized Sexuality in the Process of Czechoslovak Collectivity

Bolaji Balogun (University of Leeds)
Whiteness: A Mechanism that Sustains Polishness

Cătălin Berescu (Romanian Academy)
White Savior, Black Savior: Pro-Roma Activists in Search of an Identity

16.00–16.15 – Coffee break

16.15–17.35 – Anti-Semitism and Whiteness in Eastern Europe

Chair/Discussant: Emily Gioielli (Missouri Western State University)

Paul Hanebrink (Rutgers University – New Brunswick)
Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and the Anti-Communist Legacy in Contemporary Eastern Europe

Raul Carstocea (Europa Universität Flensburg)
Ambiguous Whiteness and the Anti-Semitic Imagination: Jews in Eastern Europe between Colonised and Colonisers

20.00 – Film Screening, Cinema Union (Ion Câmpineanu 22, Bucharest, 030167)
Guardian of the Frontier (intro Catherine Baker)

 

Wednesday, June 26

9.30–11.10 – Eastern European Whiteness in Global Perspective

Chair/Discussant: Monika Bobako (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Dušan I. Bjelić (University of Maine)
Transnational Analysis of Mexico and the Balkans: Racial Formations of Nations

Catherine Baker (University of Hull)
The Yugoslav Wars and Transnational White Nationalist Historical Narratives

Špela Drnovšek Zorko (University of Warwick)
Re-routing East European Socialism, Historicising Diasporic Whiteness

11.15–11.30 – Coffee break

11.30–13.10 – Socialism as Ambivalent Whiteness

Chair/Discussant: Kristin Roth-Ey (University College of London)

Irina Novikova (University of Latvia)
‘White Gaze’ in the USSR?: ‘Race’ and Technology in the Soviet Films of the 1920s–1960s (from Lev Kuleshov to Mark Donskoi)

Zsuzsanna Varga (Central European University)
Hungarians and White Privilege in Africa: The World Hunting Expo of 1971

James Mark (University of Exeter)
A Revolution of Whiteness? 1989 and the Politics of Race

13.10–14.40 – Lunch

14.45–16.25 – Liminality, Post-Socialism, and Eastern European Whiteness

Chair/Discussant: Ivan Kalmar (University of Toronto)

Bogdan G. Popa (University of Cambridge)
“We Belong to a Great Race, the Dacian Race”: Slavery and the Construction of an Anti-colonial White Race in Romanian Historiography

Chelsi West Ohueri (University of Texas at Austin)
The Jevg Factor: An Exploration of Whiteness, Blackness, and Racialized Identities in Albania

Kasia Narkowicz (University of Gloucestershire)
The ‘Muselmanner’ as the Ultimate Other

16.25–16.40 – Break

16.40–17.15 – Concluding roundtable

20.00 – Film Screening, Cinema Union (Ion Câmpineanu 22, Bucharest, 030167)
Oktyabr and Rostov-Luanda (intro Kristin Roth-Ey)

Colonial Hungary in East and Southeast Asia: The Orientalism of János Xántus

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Southeast Asia and Central-Eastern Europe: Forgotten Connections, Stories and Histories

Panel for the EuroSEAS 2019 Berlin Conference, September 10–13, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Convenors:

Dr. Jan Mrázek (National University of Singapore) – seajm@nus.edu.sg

Dr. Mária Strašáková (Palacký University, the Czech Republic) – maria.strasakova@upol.cz

– PRESENTATION CANCELLED –

Abstract

János Xántus (1825–1894) is remembered as one of the most famed Hungarian natural scientists of the 19th century. As a zoologist and ethnographer, he was a strong supporter and 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). Becoming a political refugee after the failed 1848–49 Hungarian war of independence from the Habsburg Empire, in the 1850s and early 1960s he was drawn into North American expeditions, and developed a vast network to transfer specimens regularly back to Hungary. Finally returning to Hungary (for the second time), after the Austro-Hungarian compromise (1867) he gained the opportunity during 1869–71 to participate in a series of imperial expeditions to East and Southeast Asia, including Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, Java, China, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Borneo. The original plan of the Austro-Hungarian expedition was to develop foreign trade relations with the opening of the Suez Canal, but it did not fulfill this promise and internal political tensions evolved between Austrian and Hungarian counterparts. This paper focuses on this expedition to explore a postcolonialist and critical geographical interpretation of Xántus, and to elucidate his activities in colonial networks and his global comparative ideas about colonialism and race. This reading aims to epistemologically contest the dominantly biographical and documentary accounts of Xántus, which follow institutionalist or nationalist legitimation logics (focusing on his collections, personality and merits) and seldom engage critically with the wider social, economic, political-ideological and racial contexts of colonialism. While Xántus’ activities relied on national, imperial and colonial power networks and interests, he was known for his critique of colonialism and his solidarity with the colonially suppressed, and made various colonial and racial comparisons between his local Hungarian and foreign experiences. This paper aks whether he pursued Eurocentrism or anti-Eurocentric criticism in his Asian interpretations, and how his depictions of the East fitted in the wider colonial discourse of Western or European Orientalism. The case of Xántus may shed light on how Hungarian colonial knowledge production was embedded in global colonialism.

xántus utazásai

Source: http://www.zoldjovo.hu/documents/Xantus_Janos_Szasz_Eva.pdf

Placing Polányi after 2008: The Double Movement of Social Embeddedness in Eastern European Economies

Karl Polányi and the Double Movement: Introductory Lectures and Roundtable Discussion

Roundtable Discussion

Corvinus University of Budapest, Building E, Lecture Room III
2 May (Thursday) 5:20 PM – 6:40 PM

Facebook event

Chair: Zoltán Ginelli

Participants:

Ilya Budraitskis (The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Russia)
Mariya Ivancheva (University of Liverpool, UK)
Brigitte Aulenbacher (JKU Linz, Austria, International Karl Polanyi Society)
Balázs Krémer (University of Debrecen, Hungary)

Polányi’s legacy has been variously forgotten and selectively rediscovered. On the one hand, a holistic reconstruction of his life work would wrongly suggest a return to an “essential” Polányi, but on the other hand, selective rediscovery is not necessarily “wrong”, since everyone finds an own situated interest or influence in Polányi’s rich pool of ideas. On a further note, his own ideas changed over time and were later put to use in different contexts by different interpreters, and have influenced various fields and disciplines, ranging from political science, institutional economics, economic anthropology, economic geography, regulation theory to new economic sociology. During the 1990s, Polányi gained mainstream readership as a critic of neoliberal global capitalism, but was also read in the 1960s socialist bloc due to his ideas of controlled markets.[1] However, Gareth Dale has differentiated between the “soft” Polányi as the “institutionalist” theorist of the social embeddedness of economies, whose ideas have passed into mainstream conceptualizations; and the “hard” Polányi, the prophetic critic of free-market globalization and capitalist commodification, and the advocate of an alternative socialist transformation. In other words, we may distinguish between a “reformist” and a “radical” Polányi.[2] But whichever of his sides we may accentuate, Polányi’s “legacy” remains to “place economies” in a substantivist, comparative and global historical socio-economics.

Like all readings, ours will also be also situational. Polányi may have perhaps too optimistically thought before he passed away in 1964 that laissez-faire capitalism and market fundamentalism are gone for good. Today, he might be puzzled by the successful expansion of East Asian “small tigers” and “communist neoliberal” China, the protectionist turn of the United States, and the rising tide of so-called “illiberal”, state-centralized and nationalist authoritarian regimes from North to South and East to West, with their curious recallings, reinventions or reformulations of what we used to call “neoliberal capitalism”. The aim of this roundtable is to revisit some of Polányi’s key ideas and themes in order to understand how and why recent global capitalist restructuring and hegemonic shifts in the world economy after the economic crisis in 2008 affected the rise of these new authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. 

Polányian ideas as point of departure: double movement, embedded economies, and modes of integration

 In his seminal book, The Great Transformation, published during the war in 1944, Polányi introduced two of his perhaps most influential and closely interrelated concepts: the double movement and the embedded economy. These encompassed two wider propositions, which may be in conflict with each other:

1. Historical and progressive proposition

Polányi starts by presenting the evolution of 19th century modern capitalism as a process in which market relations were “disembedded” from social relations. This proposition was born from his debates with neoclassical economists, who envisaged the unilinear development of capitalism leading to an autonomous and self-regulating market, against which he posed his own normative vision of a socialist economy that may transgress the socially disembedded economy with a promise of a socially embedded one. Polányi ultimately believed in a social democratic world where the vicissitudes and inequalities generated by uncontrolled market conditions may be resolved and regulated by democratic planning and a new global order of redistribution.

For Polányi, the double movement represents a dialectical process of emergence: the socially destructive overreach of marketization and the commodification of land, labor and money triggers various forms of “protective” socio-institutional reflexes and counteractions. But Polányi saw in economic crises not only moments of social and institutional change, but also historical opportunities embracing a gamut of alternative political trajectories from revolutionary class struggle to new class compromises between labor and capital, and to political regimes ranging from socialism to fascism.

2. Epistemological and comparative proposition

In a general sense, the embeddedness of the economy means for Polányi that markets and economic activity are constituted through “instituted” processes embedded in social forms, behaviors, and relations. On the one hand, markets are inescapably formed politically and are subject to political contestation and manipulation or management; on the other, markets overflow into social spheres and generate institutional frictions, which create new local articulations or resolutions of economic crises.

Polányi worked with the tensions between holistic modes of analysis and qualitative difference-finding methods. For him, economies are substantive, situated in time and place, in heterogeneous socio-institutional contexts. Since all economies are socially embedded, what matters from a comparative view are their modes of embeddedness or integration. The Polányian economy is multilogical along at least three modes of economic integration: reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange (according to Jamie Peck, a fourth may be householding).[3] Reciprocity is based on symmetrical relations and mutual sociality as seen in gift-giving economies; redistribution is based on central authority, regulated by custom or law and tax or tribute; exchange is driven by individual gain from priced commodities in an instituted market. Altogether, these different modes of economic integration establish the basis for (re)productive and (re)distributive capacities in societies, which are stabilized through culturally and politically institutionalized forms of regulation.

Questions to roundtable participants

In the current academic “regime debate” we can see rivaling political-institutional typologies of “illiberal democracies”, “populist conservatism”, “soft authoritarianism”, “semi-authoritarian regimes”, Steven Levitsky and Lucan Wray’s “competitive authoritarianism” or “hybrid regimes”,[4] world-systems analysts’ “semi-peripheral dependent development”, or the Varieties of Capitalism School’s typology of national and elite strategies on the different roads to capitalism in the postsocialist “transition”. It is still debated to what extent these new regimes are path-dependent on their local modes of postsocialist development, and whether they actually constitute new forms of neoliberal capitalism or protectionist counter-movements against a liberal capitalist order. But a Polányian explanation would start not with the “disfunctionality” of institutions compared to “democratic” societies, but with their new and comparative modes of socio-institutional integration into an evolving capitalist world order.

Reaching to Polányi’s ideas, we may ask the following questions:

  1. In many Eastern European countries, the 2008 global economic crisis seemed to signal the political failure of the promises of postsocialist “transition” to liberal market economies and democracies (“catching up to the West”). How can we understand the recent dialectic dynamics between the commodifying market-impulses of global capitalism and its local Eastern European social embeddedness: what comparative political-institutional strategies of integration into the capitalist world economy emerged since 2008?
  2. What new modes of social integration have developed under post-2008 political regimes regarding reciprocity, redistribution, or market exchange – new informal economies, new redistributional politics, and new market-regulation by the state and the political elite?
  3. Considering Polányi’s ideas about the double movement, how can emerging nationalist “illiberal” authoritarian regimes be regarded as local socio-political (protectionist) reactions to recent processes of neoliberal global capitalism, and what potentials or challenges remain for counter-movements of progressive politics, social movements or social policy?

[1] Lengyel, György (2016): Embeddedness, Redistribution and Double Dependence: Polányi-reception Reconsidered. Intersections, 2(2): 13–37.

[2] Dale, Gareth (2010): Social democracy, embeddedness and decommodification: On the conceptual innovations and intellectual affiliations of Karl Polanyi. New Political Economy, 15: 369–393.

[3] Peck, Jamie (2013): For Polanyian economic geographies. Environment and Planning A. 45: 1545–1568.

[4] Levitsky, S., Wray, L. A. (2010): Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Semiperipheral Postcoloniality: An Eastern and Central European Transnational History of Urban and Regional Development Planning

Képtalálat a következőre: „catference logo”

I submitted a paper for the “CAT-ference 2019: 8th International Urban Geographies of Post-communist States Conference” to be held in Belgrade at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Geography during September 25–29, 2019. My paper is planned to be part of the panel entitled “The Global East in the global geopolitics of knowledge: Views from between North and South”, organized by Martin Müller (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland) and Elena Trubina (Ural Federal University, Russia).

“We never had colonies” – so goes the commonly held phrase that repetitively delinks Hungary and most of Eastern (and Central) Europe from (post)colonial history. Despite this dismissiveness, the Hungarian government’s political rhetoric of national victimisation excessively exploits colonial discourse based on a reservoir of unprocessed Eastern European colonial experiences, whilst dissecting the region from global colonial history – a history ruled by a hegemonic narrative of East-West or North-South centre-periphery dichotomies, thereby concealing or marginalising the uneasy, unfit and contradictory semiperipheral position and integration of Eastern Europe in global colonialism. This paper explores these issues of exclusive-inclusive epistemic geopolitics and strategic regionalisms in knowledge production by deconstructing inherited hegemonic and self-colonising narratives and by proposing a global historical and world-systemic postcolonial perspective to grasp the dynamics and potential of in-between semiperipheral epistemologies. The paper draws upon a demonstrative set of 20th century historical case studies to overview the various ways we may understand (post)coloniality in the global circulation of urban theory and planning knowledge, and the Eastern European context of the transnational interconnectivity and global circulation of development, urban and regional planning knowledge in post/colonial networks. By looking into these forgotten global interactions in transnational planning history, we may reassess how dependency structures and hegemonic structural shifts reorganised global knowledge networks, how these intertwined with regional development and global urbanism, and how peripheral and semiperipheral contexts were ultimately silenced by the narrative networks of the global centre.

 

© Copyright – Do not cite without author’s permission.

Plotting the Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism and Global Colonialism in Geographical Knowledge, 1867–1948

43rd Annual Conference on the Political Economy of the World-System

Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Germany

Topic: 2. The Balkans’ inter-imperial linkages

Eastern Europe is the “black sheep” of postcolonial studies: its colonial experiences have been routinely missed out from the relentless focus on (post)colonial centres and peripheries. Since the 1990s, postcolonial literature has extended Orientalism to the Western construction of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and has reinterpreted colonial relations with regards to Soviet imperialism, the postsocialist transition, the European integration, and Eastern Europe’s role in decolonization and socialist globalization. However, due to dominant historical narratives, the imperialist or colonialist ambitions of Eastern or East Central Europe seem to go against the grain, since these countries were often colonized, rarely or never held any colonies, and did not have any significant colonial ambitions.

This contradiction may be resolved by revising the restrictive Western-Atlantic narrative of global history and the territorial understanding of colonialism, and look into the various ways colonialism and imperialism were spatially practiced and geographically imagined in Hungary. Hungarian geographical knowledge production from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries related to the Balkans is a demonstrative case study of semiperipheral imperialism. Hungarian imperialist ambitions grew from the economic boom in the late 19th century and Austro-Hungarian geopolitical interests to secure southern areas against Russia, Turkey and Serbia. Although the tragic defeat in WWI led to the Hapsburg Empire’s demise, huge Hungarian territorial losses and defensive revisionism, these only replenished arguments for Hungarian civilizational superiority in the region.

Hungary’s semiperipheral “in-between” position constructed a complex and ambivalent imperialist-nationalist discourse on various intertwined scales. On the global scale, Hungary was imagined as part of an Empire and the superior white race and civilization. The country was an active observer, participant, and benefiter of “high imperialism”, and Hungarian Balkanism was both deeply intertwined with and a semiperipheral compensation to global colonialism. Standing at both a global civilizational fault line and exchange border, Hungary’s “turn to the East” represented a geopolitical rhetoric of developing Orientalism, approaching the post-Ottoman Balkans, and searching for the Hungarian homeland in Central Asia as an attempt at East-West maneuvering and cultural imperialism in the Asian continent. On the European scale, Hungary countered (mostly) German and Austrian hegemony and Western Europe, but also expanded national hegemony by upholding the merits of European civilization against the half-European periphery and the non-European world, acting as the “lord protector” of Christian Europe against the Muslim East. On the regional scale, the Carpathian Basin became the stage of a Hungarian “civilizing mission” towards culturally backward and “half-Europeanized” landscapes, in order to both bring and protect European civilization by upholding a “bridge” role and an essential “healthy mix” of Eastern and Western traits. The ideal nation-bearing hearthland landscape of the Alföld basin was geographically co-constructed in relation to the Balkan “Other”, while imperialist visions of cultural and economic expansion were naturalized by transforming the “wild” Karst and opening to “the Hungarian sea”. The Balkans offered a gateway to sovereign Hungarian development by de-linking from Western dependency and maturing as a true European nation by linking through active maritime participation to the global colonial world.

See an earlier version of this project here.

Hungarian Indians: Racial and anti-colonial solidarity in post-Trianon Hungary

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Ervin Baktay posing as Chief Lazy Buffalo

Find below a new abstract I produced for the “Historicizing ‘Whiteness’ in Eastern Europe and Russia” conference call, an event organised by the Centre for the Study of Equal Opportunity Policies at the Political Science Department, University of Bucharest on 25–26 June, 2019.

The end of the First World War propelled the rearrangement of the global colonial-imperial order, including Central and Eastern European relations, positions and strategies within this system. In Hungary, the Axis defeat and the humiliating Treaty of Trianon (1920) delivered a fatal blow to expansive imperialist and ethnic assimilationist visions, and led to the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the peripheral destabilisation of previous legitimation to nationalist and ethnocentric superiority based on the global racial-colonial order. Stuck between rivalling and hostile “small Entente” nationalisms, the Hungarian post-Trianon urge to reorganise global alliances and solidarity networks and to reinvent the racial and cultural basis of national coherence resulted in various strategies. These included defensive and traumatised victimisation intertwined with cultural superiority, visions of agrarian revitalisation and “third way” development (folk writers), revanchist search for Eastern alliances against the Atlantic West (Turanism), bitter critique of Wilsonian sovereignty in the League of Nations decolonisation debates, and radical versions of expansive racial imperialisms by geopoliticians aligned to the Italian and German “colony question”.

In this context, Hungarian cultural connections to North American Indians emerged in the 1920s as both a state-subsidised and bottom-up anti-colonial solidarity movement engaging with comparative colonial experiences. The boy scouts’ movement, through the initiative of Pál Strilich, actively popularised Indian culture by building on (and partly criticising) the widely popular genre of the Western and the exoticised pioneer frontier of the Wild West – an uncertain but promising “free world” in which masculinity, survival and combat virtues, and lonely heroes of valour amidst moral turmoil served well in post-Trianon imaginations. Solidarity with the Indian “noble savage” was established through cultural similarities in nomadic culture and mythology (Hungarian Orientalism), romanticist longing for an essential and authentic culture (nativism), return to nature and mysticism, revival of an idealised folk culture and delinked rural utopia (tribe communities), and – most importantly – anti-colonial solidarity resonating with ideas of a lost homeland, traumatised subalternity and revanchist anti-Western critique. Hungarian Indian subjectivity and cultural appropriation entangled with local centre-periphery relations by mobilising rural identities and criticizing decadent and alienated urban life, capitalism, modernity, and Western imperialism. Since the mongolid Indian “redskins” fitted neatly in the “noble Other” Asian “yellow race” within the Eurocentric tripartite racial hierarchy (white, yellow, black), Hungarians positioned the Indians within state-led Turanism, the search for the magyar homeland and cultural imperialism towards the East, thereby legitimating bonds of racial brotherhood. The paper explores these processes through the activities of various “Hungarian Indians,” including the “Indologist Indian” Ervin Baktay, József Wiesler aka Kószáló Éji Sas (Roaming Night Eagle), and Sándor Borvendég Deszkáss aka Fehér Szarvas (White Deer). After Sovietisation, “Hungarian Indians” became a reactionary anti-communist counterculture which fought in the 1956 revolution, and remained a subculture during socialism. This paper interprets the Hungarian Indian trope as a peculiar semiperipheral colonial strategy of racial in-betweenness, and rethinks this legacy in light of the selective racialisation of current political discourse and biopolitics, including solidarity, migration and reproduction.

Keywords: Hungarian Indians, anti-colonial solidarity, semiperipheral coloniality, racial politics