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


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

© Copyright – Content is protected by copyright!


Ginelli Z. (2019): The Semiperipheral Colonial Alternative: Visions of Hungarian Catholic Postcoloniality in Latin America. Critical Geographies Blog. 2019.07.11. Link:

When did capitalism start?


Well. Is this a timeline of the rise of capitalism, or a timeline of the rise of Western European hegemony? Even Karl Marx wrote of “capital” (or capitalist mode of production) and not capitalism, so what is “capitalism” in the first place? Wasn’t it a term constructed somewhere in the second half of the nineteenth century in Western Europe, canonized by mostly German authors? (Was this a mere coincidence?) Wasn’t it a term fixed as the successive stage after so-called feudalism (another relatively Eurocentric term), in the transition from feudalism to capitalism debate? Wasn’t it seen as the highest form of modern European development (even if in negative light, such as imperialism) to be overthrown by European modernization ideals, such as communism? Wasn’t it in the same way during the Cold War seen as the essential idea behind liberal democracy, civil society, etc., as the anti-thesis of so-called socialist countries? Wasn’t it seen as neoliberal agendas in the so-called Second and Third Worlds from the 1970s and after 1989/91? So which one was capitalism? Are they the same thing?

Furthermore, what does “capitalism” consist of in the first place? This latter one is an intriguing question, since capital, capitalists and capital development existed since ages. Even Max Weber notes that you could find it in Babylonia, Ancient Greece, Rome, medieval China or Japan. Democracy was “said” to have existed in Ancient Greece. Modernism was “said” to have begun in the Renaissance. Rationalism was “said” to have kicked off with the Enlightenment. And capitalism? 1492? 1571? (see G. O. Flynn and A. Giráldez) The industrial revolution (and which one)? The 19th century? We all know, that these are highly debated. However, the worst you could do is draw a timeline of the spontaneous emergence of “capitalism”, referring to “something” that popped out in universal space and exists until today.

I could equally say, that “capitalism” was a concept deriving from Confucianist ideas in the 18th century by French physiocrats, who translated “wu-wei” into “laissez-faire”. Why not say this?

Of course I get the provocative idea of the timeline, but this binary logic of whether or not capitalism existed is dumbly posed in the first place. Or there are like ecological critiques that would suggest that exploitation and developmentalism per se existed since “modern man”, and capitalism is just an acceleration of these processes. 😀 In all, I wonder what that 1600-1700 AD suggests…