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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Reklámok

Historicizing “Whiteness” in Eastern Europe and Russia

whiteness-conference-logo-(comp)

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

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

“Third way” development politics and culture war in Hungary after 1945

Check out our panel at the ASEEES Summer Convention in Zagreb in 14-16 June 2019, to be held at the Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesUniversity of Zagreb.

Organizer: Zoltán Ginelli

How did Hungarian politics, in the name of “catching up” to the West, construct visions of development amidst structural change and global (re)integration, and how did these spark “culture war” and affect cultural solidarity and exchange? How did the idea of a “third way” political economic development in Hungary generate alternative and competing visions of cultural solidarity and alignment? How can we conceptualize these intertwined structural and discursive processes in Hungary by considering transnational and centre-periphery relations on various geographical scales? Our panel aims to address these questions by empirically exploring the role and relationship of intellectual experts and the state in Hungary after 1945, how their networks (re)organized along new alliances and conflicts due to wider political economic and discursive shifts.

The panel focuses on three main aspects. First, how state representatives, reformist intellectuals and ideologues tried to construct an alternative “third way” development politics in reaction to global restructuration and as a maneuver between East and West to reposition Hungary and Eastern (Central) Europe. Second, the “third way” is also a contested epistemological field in the analysis of the Hungarian path of semiperipheral development between accepted Western dichotomies (such as neoliberalism and authoritarianism, state and market, socialism and capitalism, East and West). Finally, the panel seeks connections between political economic shifts and cultural rearrangements, how new cultural politics were formed and how new forms of cultural solidarity or distinction evolved regarding space, class and race.

Keywords: Hungary, culture war, post-WWII period, third way development, intellectuals

  

SESSION 1

Chair: Gábor Danyi

Discussant: Stefano Bottoni

Anti-Germanism, and the definition of „New Hungary” 1945-46 – A special brand of „third world nationalism”?

Csaba Tóth

1945 was described at the time as a revolution and later as simply a „turning point” or „year zero” in the case of Soviet occupied Eastern European countries. As in Czechoslovakia or Poland, anti-German sentiments defined the first explanations of what happened and how to go forward in Hungary immediately after the Second World War. Those who then gained power were tasked with a difficult objective: reorganizing not only the state and its apparatus, but offer a new, credible identity to the people of Hungary itself. My presentation argues that they did so, mainly by importing anti-colonial sentiments, and trying to utilize them in a way that would legitimize Soviet occupation and the new regime as one that liberates Hungary from centuries of German domination. (Szekfű 1947; Révai 1948.) This interpretation invoked an early form of third world post-colonial sentiment known at the time from Indian and Chinese anti-colonial powers. Stalin himself oftentimes emphasized the pivotal importance of “national front struggles” against imperialism in China and India (Radchenko 2012) and this view and approach was strikingly similar to the Soviet Politburo’s standpoint on Hungarian and more generally, Eastern European struggles against Fascism and German domination. This approach had an effect on Hungary on the official level: not only in the form of the creation of a first and foremost nationalist “popular front” in 1944, and the definition of independence as “liberation”, but also on the focus on the expulsion of ethnic Germans, the rhetoric against Germans and “pro-Germans” (made similar to “Fascists”) during the first post-war years. Following previous ideas of “ethnic symbolism” (D. Smith 1987.) and ethnic myths as a nation-building historical force and the recognized effect decolonization made on Eastern European Consciousness as well as criticism of the established geographical restrictions on post-colonial studies (Owczarzak 2009; Spivak 1999) my study argues that a special kind of “Third Worldism”, anti-imperialism, and anti-colonialism is essential to understand the origins of post-1945 Hungarian “democratic” nationalism, prevalent to these days.

 

Geographical narratives as key elements of the culture war in Hungary

Péter Balogh

This contribution will show how a number of historically deeply rooted but competing geographical narratives exist in Hungary, which orient the country towards different geographic and ideational directions. Indeed, the gradual demise of consensus politics, which focused on European/transatlantic integration and market economy, has by the turn of the millennium given way to a culture war of some sort in several countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Trencsényi 2014). Yet despite being a small and ethnically relatively homogenous country, according to Janke (2013: 56) for instance Hungary appears more divided along ideological and geographical lines than e.g. Poland. Hungary is burdened by the conflict between the folkish and urbanite traditions, for instance, which goes back to at least the interwar period (Trencsényi 2014: 139). The notion of ‘Central Europe’ served pro-European aims and integration with the West in the 1980s and 1990s (Balogh 2017). There is a centuries-old image of the ‘Christian bulwark’ (Száraz 2012) against Muslims etc., recently mobilized during and after the 2015 refugee crisis. There is also a completely competing Turanian tradition since at least the beginning of the past century that emphasizes the Asiatic and Turkic roots of ancient Hungarians, and which was then as is nowadays deployed for hoped commercial and political benefits in Asia (Balogh 2015). It is argued that these narratives are both geographically and ideologically irreconcilable and form essential elements of the Hungarian culture war(s).

 

Post/colonial Hungary: Opening socialist Hungary to the “Third World”

Zoltán Ginelli 

Eastern Europe is the “black sheep” of postcolonial studies, which focuses either on the global centre or the periphery, but silences Hungary’s complex historical relations and experiences to coloniality, colonialism and imperialism. This paper introduces the historical project of “post/colonial Hungary” in order to conceptualize Hungarian post/colonialities in semiperipheral development relations. This new approach criticizes constructivist approaches to postcolonialism in Eastern Europe by “speaking back” from the Hungarian semiperiphery and unearthing the forgotten density of local historical contexts and epistemological trajectories. The paper focuses on the post-1945 global realignment of Hungarian foreign policy, namely how Hungary’s turn towards Afro-Asian decolonization and the “Third World” induced a “cultural war” intertwined with visions for “third way” development under state-socialism, drawing parallels between postcolonial and Hungarian development history. Anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist solidarity contested previous civilizational and racial fault lines, but went hand-in-hand with the socialist civilizing mission in development assistance and pragmatic foreign economic maneuvering between East and West. Hungarian assistance to Non-Aligned Ghana led to founding the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) under the economist József Bognár, who propagated export-oriented growth based on development experiences in postcolonial countries under the New Economic Mechanism. From the 1980s, the pro-West “back to Europe” turn and postsocialist market-liberal transition in Hungary silenced these historical relations with the postcolonial global periphery. Finally, the paper offers new insights into how a new “coloniality discourse” was based on complex historical experiences and appropriating postcolonial critique in the geopolitical maneuvering and “cultural war” of Viktor Orbán’s government after 2010.

 

SESSION 2

Chair: Péter Balogh

Discussant: Stefano Bottoni

The Prosecution of the Central Eastern European Neomarxist Opposition

Richárd Zima

The paper deals with the philosophers’ groups, which represented the Marxist alternative of the state socialist ideology and created the leftist opposition in countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Most of these philosophers participated in the 1956 and 1968 movements, and in some cases, influenced them. Their philosophical and sociological research pointed out the real nature of state socialism. On that basis, their common aim was to find the ‘tertium datur’, the third way in opposition to the capitalist and the state-socialist order. The theoretic prosperity of the ‘60s ended with the prosecution of these groups as they fell victim to the cultural war initiated by their governments. This paper aims to provide insights into the intelligentsia’s prosecution caused by their critical description of the state socialism and, as a result of their attempt to seek alternatives, into the similarities and differences between their Neomarxist theories of the ideal society. The dissolution of this theoretical wave was a result of the political response to the aftermath of the Eastern European movements of 1968 as well as the dynamics of Soviet and world politics at the time. The differences among the processes of prosecution in the aforementioned countries will lead us to a deeper understanding of this Neomarxist opposition’s place in the complexity of Marxism itself. This would lead me to briefly introduce the rise of a new form (and generation) of leftist oppositional thought at the late ‘70s, which turned out to be less and less Marxist.

 

Transnational “Solidarity” in Poland and Hungary

Gábor Danyi

From the 1970s onwards, the transnational diffusion of ideas, techniques and strategies has helped to develop simultaneously the dissident movements in the Soviet-bloc countries. At this time the Hungarian democratic opposition from the establishment of the Polish Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR) sought contact with the Polish opposition. As a consequence the knowledge of alternative printing and the strategies of legalism, conspiring and non-violence were transmitted to small dissident circles in Hungary and under the influence of „new evolutionism” Hungarian intellectuals created parallel institutions, such as a flying university, legal aid service or alternative publishing houses. The tightening unofficial contacts between dissidents led to the emergence of a transnational dimension of solidarity in the bloc. However, it must be acknowledged that the very limited import of Solidarity movement in Hungary resulted in an asymmetry between these countries regarding the extension and patterns of cultural resistance and opposition. The paper interprets the new dissident practices and parallel institutions emerging in the 1980s in terms of “culture war” as far as they helped to form diametrically opposed ways of political and economic programs, geopolitical imagination and collective memory. Focusing on the history of Hungary and Poland the paper analyzes structural differences of the opposition movements and highlights the patterns of transnational/global solidarity.

 

German and American Political Assistance in Hungary: Western Development Models, Cultural Politics, and the Crises of Democratic Capitalism

Kyle Shybunko

When German political foundations and American “democracy promotion” outfits such as AID and the National Endowment for Democracy arrived in Budapest to help build a liberal democracy, they arrived in a country that was undergoing rapid political and constitutional change after years of party dictatorship. The chief tasks at hand were the democratization of politics, the promotion of an independent civil society, and the establishment of a market economy. Hungary would be returned to Europe. They also arrived in a society with a history of kulturkampf dating to the late 19th century when Hungarian liberals and Catholic nationalists spoke of a war for Hungary’s sovereignty fought on the terrain of culture, ethnicity and confession. Hungary’s new pluralistic politics was implicated by a revived version of this “culture war” which, like both its fin-de-siècle and interwar versions, was fundamentally tied to competing ideas of Europe and Hungary’s European-ness. How did these West German and American organizations navigate this Hungarian landscape which was otherwise understood to be the most promising and fertile in the New Europe with its rich tradition of reform economics? By examining the grant-making practices of these organizations in the 1980s and 1990s I show how funders approximated the political orientation and programs of civic organizations and incipient political parties, and how they understood cultural politics to be epiphenomenal to the urgent work of democratic capitalist transformation, missing in-fact the geopolitical and political-economic valences of these “culture wars” which are only so apparent at the current juncture.

 

The Ghetto as a Mobile Technology: Problematizing Gettósodás/Ghettoization in Budapest’s Eighth District after the Neo-Liberal Turn

Jonathan McCombs

This paper explores the transnational connection between racial regimes in the United States and Hungary to highlight how urban scholars and policy experts have sown racial and cultural divisions through the discursive concept of the ‘the ghetto.’ Inner city areas in the United States in the 1970s saw an increase in the concentration of very low-income, highly segregated black communities. In a bid to make sense of the worsening condition for inner city blacks in the US, scholars began describing these new urban spaces as ‘ghettos’ to account for the strong majority of racialized minorities (over 90%) living in these spaces and the limited life chances that ghetto inhabitants were afforded. Twenty years later, as Hungary underwent its own form of neo-liberalization, the discourse of ghettoization was picked up by scholars and policy makers to describe the conditions of inner-city Budapest districts that had come to be inhabited by a large Roma population and had been badly disinvested during state-socialism. In this presentation I focus on the Eighth District, which has been heavily stigmatized by experts as a ghetto since the early 1990s and has undergone state-led gentrification projects to curb the so-called ghettoization process. I show how the ghetto narrative was articulated in Hungary as a mobile technology of racial government, describing how it inflamed existing racialized divisions, igniting a culture war waged by policy makers and the local Eighth District government against Eighth District residents.

Magyar úti leírások és regényirodalom a gyarmati világról

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Összegyűjtöttem egy kb. 800 könyvnyi adatbázist a (poszt)koloniális világról szóló, magyar szerzőktől származó vagy magyar nyelvre lefordított úti leírásokból és regényirodalomból – kiadási adatokkal (szerző, fordító, évszám, kiadó, oldalszám, sorozat, link) és borítóképekkel. Köztük vannak ponyvák és tudományos munkák is, 19. század közepi írások és egészen a rendszerváltásig (1989) megjelenő szövegek, illetve másodlagos irodalom is erről a témáról. A legtöbbet ebben az antikvarium.hu adatbázisa segített! Ezekből is fogok mazsolázni a Magyar Kritikai Geográfusok Fóruman indított blogsorozatomhoz, amely Magyarország és a gyarmati világ viszonyával foglalkozik!


– ENGLISH VERSION –

HUNGARIAN TRAVEL AND NOVEL WRITING ABOUT THE COLONIAL WORLD

I compiled a database with around 800 books about the (post)colonial world, mostly travelogues and novels written or translated by Hungarians – with book covers and pubication details (author, translator, date, publisher, length, series, link). These books range from pulp fiction and scientific studies, mid-19th century writings up until the system change (1989), and include secondary literature on the topic. My greatest help in this work was the database of antikvarium.hu! I will present some of these books in my blog series shared on the Forum for Hungarian Critical Geographers, which is about how Hungary related to the colonial world!