Hungary, (Anti)Colonialism, and the Global Cold War

52nd Annual ASEEES Convention, Washington, D.C., November 5–8

Convenor: Árpád von Klimó (The Catholic University of America, DC, USA)

Discussant: Steve Jobbitt (Lakehead University, Canada)

Chair: Judith Szapor (McGill University, Canada)

Decolonization became a major debate since the 1960s, complicating Cold War Culture and challenging the West’s claim for moral superiority and human rights policies. Communist countries like Hungary began to engage in diplomatic campaigns with the double aim at convincing new states in Africa and Asia to support the Soviet sphere instead of the West and to undermine the image of many Western states by focusing criticism on their colonial past or involvement in colonial wars or support of anticommunist authoritarian regimes. After the Algerian War, it was the Vietnam War and the support of the fight of “liberation” movements which became one of the most important ideological and practical battle fields for the new version of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist propaganda, aimed at domestic as well as international (UNO, UNESCO, IOC, other world sports organizations) and transnational audiences (Africa, Asia, Western Europe, USA). During this time, and increasingly since the Second Vatican Council, colonialism and post-colonial critique became an intensifying debate also among Catholics all over the world, not only in relation to Latin America and Liberation Theology. In the world of sports, Hungarian functionaries and athletes also participated. Similar new ideological debates erupted in the international networks of academia and the sciences, as the example of the Hungarian noble laureate (Chemistry), Albert Szent-Györgyi, demonstrates.

We are still at the beginning to study the questions related to these complex problems. Our panel will attempt to clarify some of the assumptions and research problems related to the connection between Cold War politics, decolonization, Hungarian and Vatican diplomacy. The papers of this panel show that the outcome and results of the anti-colonialist activities and debates were often contradictory.

The Soviet Union, the United States and Nuclear Fear: Albert Szent-Györgyi’s Political Life, 1945–1973

Ádám Farkas (Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary)

Albert Szent-Györgyi was a popular public figure after the WWII and he was expected to become the President of Hungary. He was saved by the Soviets, spent two months in the Soviet Union and was one of the founders of the Hungarian- Soviet Cultural Association. The non-communist Nobel laureate scientist worked together actively with the Soviets to rebuild the Hungarian cultural life. As he became dissatisfied with the political changes, he emigrated to the United States in 1947. Since the mid-1960s he turned to the politics again, he spoke out against the Vietnam War. He criticized the US government and urged to cooperate with the Soviet Union for peace. But for Szent-Györgyi it was never the criticism of the imperialistic intentions. Like many of his scientific colleagues, he was deeply concerned about the destructive uses of scientific knowledge. Szent-Györgyi turned to civil and political rights, peace and antiwar movements. His writings (The Crazy Ape, What next?, Science, ethics and politics, Lost in the 20th century) became standard works in the antinuclear movement. His perception of the superpowers changed once again, and in his eyes the Soviet Union somehow appeared as a following example for the United States. His image was rehabilitated in Hungary and visited the country in 1973. The paper investigates Szent-Györgyi’s involvement in politics, his changing attitudes to the superpowers and the social movements related to Eastern Bloc and the West. Drawing on oral history, memoirs and archival materials, the study reflects on ideology, rebellion and political belief.

Connecting the Local to the Global in the Cold War: Hungary’s Contribution to Western Colonialist Sport Practices in the International Olympic Committee, 1960s–1989

Johanna Mellis (Ursinus College, USA)

For part of my book manuscript, I am exploring socialist Hungary’s work with the International Olympic Committee (which was and is a colonialist organization). Sport leaders from Hungary and the other Eastern Bloc countries helped to ‘decolonize’ the IOC in some regards, by bringing in and working more with sport leaders from African and Asian countries. But they also worked hard to uphold the IOC’s discriminatory ‘Amateur Rule,’ which forbade athletes from receiving commercial sponsorships for their sport endeavors. Eastern Bloc sport leaders did this in order to protect the state-supported sport systems back home from scrutiny (to continue giving athletes prized material privileges and prevent them from defecting to the West). But their efforts also severely restricted athletes in non-authoritarian countries from getting the money they needed to train, compete, etc., and thus contributed – even if inadvertently – to the discriminatory policies of the sport body.

Anticommunism, Decolonization and the Vatican: Cardinal Mindszenty in Portugal (1972)

Árpád von Klimó (The Catholic University of America, DC, USA)

On October 11, 1972, the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church in exile, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, arrived in Portugal, for a one week-long visit. On the next day, Mindszenty was at the center of an extensive program of prayer, rosaries and masses at the Shrine of Fatima. He celebrated High Mass in front of approx. 250,000 people. The Hungarian Cardinal in his short speech emphasized that the Fatima secrets” were also addressed at him, who suffered from “Russia … spreading error over the world”, that is: a Communist system which oppressed the church. Mindszenty had been a symbol of anticommunist resistance since his incarceration in 1949, and his 15-year long stay at the US Embassy in Budapest (1956-71). With Portugal, he visited a country with an authoritarian regime that was increasingly justifying its existence with anticommunism. The colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea (1961–75) had ruined the finances of Portugal and the high number of victims and the suffering of Portuguese troops, similar to Vietnam, had contributed to the undermining of the regime that claimed to adhere to Catholic teaching, while the Vatican and progressive Catholics increasingly challenged its ideology. My paper studies the visit of Mindszenty in relation to the wider political context, the changing understanding of colonialism among the Vatican and Portuguese Catholics, the Cold War conflict related to Communist Hungary and the West, based on documents from Mindszenty’s private archive in Budapest (Mindszenty Foundation), from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, as well from a variety of other primary sources.

The Clash of Colonialisms: The Race Between Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Anti-Colonialism in the Third World

Zoltán Ginelli (Independent Scholar, Hungary)

This paper explores how Hungarians on both sides of the Iron Curtain opened up to Afro-Asian decolonisation through competing constructions of Eastern European semiperipheral postcoloniality to be shared with the Third World. State-socialist Hungary struggled to open up via socialist globalisation against Western protectionism, and developed anti-colonialism against Western Empire and solidarity towards emerging postcolonies. The stakes were high, because Hungarian anti-communist political refugees in the West were already racing to first develop anti-colonial solidarity towards postcolonial countries and persuade them against “Soviet colonialism”. Backed by the USA, Hungarian ex-premier Ferenc Nagy successfully popularised this critique in the International Peasant Union and the Assembly of Captive European Nations, and during his Asian trip (1954) managed to manipulate the first Third World conference in Bandung (1955). In the race for recognition, the communist leadership in Hungary was losing initiative. After the 1956 revolution, Hungarian communists struggled to persuade Third World countries in the United Nations to vote against the Western condemnation of the Soviet invasion, and post-Stalinist Khrushchevian opening up policy allowed them to seek recognition by exporting the “Hungarian development model” to the Third World. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah looked to the socialist world to relieve Western dependency and in 1962 requested the Hungarian economist József Bognár to develop the newly decolonised African country’s First Seven-Year Plan. While Hungarian refugee experts like Imre Kovács were working as anti-communist reform advisors in Latin America and Asia, Bognár’s Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) promoted export-oriented growth to reposition and integrate state-socialist Hungary in the global economy.

The forgotten Polish link in the global history of the “quantitative revolution”

In textbook chronicles, the “quantitative revolution” marked a historical moment when geography became a true Cold War science. As a result of the Second World War, a new generation of geographers left their parochial disciplinary chambers and idiographic methods to turn towards an interdisciplinary approach by adopting the universal “scientific method”, and pursue rigorous, testable mathematical methods in spatial analysis and a positivistic urge to apply deductive theories in spatial planning, modernization and development. An inevitable element of this change was the (re)discovery of German location theories (von Thünen 1826, Weber 1909), including the central place theory of Walter Christaller (1933) and August Lösch (1940), which revolutionized the field of urban geography and regional planning.

The hexagonic model of central places (settlements) by Walter Christaller, 1933

However, anti-positivist critique in the West since the late 1960s has greatly simplified these historical contexts, and the knowledge geographies, wider geographical conditions and knowledge networks of the “quantitative revolution” have remained unexplored. The “revolution” was actually an emerging hegemonic narrative of academics in the global center of North America and Britain, who appropriated interwar era German location theories for their own local pursuits with the help of their postwar academic alliance with Swedish geographers.

Polish regional plans of central places by the National Office of Spatial Planning (Główny Urząd Planowania Przestrzennego) in Warsaw, 1948

But missing from this transnational history is the early postwar school of Polish geography and spatial planning, which became an important precursor in the wider history of the centralized state being involved in the regional planning of settlements. This article shows how the various contexts of European state-led applications of central place theory – disregarded by liberal capitalists in the West – connected across statist regimes, by focusing on how Walter Christaller’s central place theory was applied in the German colonization of Poland by the Nazis during the Generalplan Ost (1940–43) and then in postwar Polish spatial planning under the nation-wide reconstruction orchestrated by the National Office of Spatial Planning (1946–48), which relied on this same German planning knowledge. The remarkable continuity between the Nazi German and postwar Polish contexts gave Polish geographers an advantage to be later included in the American-led Western knowledge networks of the “quantitative revolution” from the late 1950s on, despite the Iron Curtain.

The Nazi settlement system plan of the Eastern annexed territories, including Poland, for the Generalplan Ost by Walter Christaller, 1941

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Ginelli Z. (2020): The forgotten Polish link in the global history of the “quantitative revolution”. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.01.01. Link:

The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Anti-Colonialism in the Third World

This research explores how Hungarians on both sides of the Iron Curtain opened up to Afro-Asian decolonisation through competing constructions of Eastern European semiperipheral postcoloniality. Eastern Europe has been excluded from global colonial history, which only accounts for the relationship between the global center and periphery, the colonisers and colonised. But the remarkable neglect of the region’s colonial history stems from its semiperipheral position. For Eastern Europe, the contradictory position of being part of the global center but also contesting it by allying with the periphery, being a colonial collaborant of White Empire but also critiquing or fearing Western colonialism resulted in an contradictory, in-between semiperipheral manoeuvring within the global world system. While recent studies in global history have dealt more and more with the relationship between the Second and Third Worlds during the Cold War, none of these analyses looked at the parallels and interactions between communist and anti-communist trajectories of colonial discourse and anti-colonialism in light of this Eastern European semiperipheral dynamic.

State-socialist Hungary struggled to open up via socialist globalisation against Western protectionism, and developed anti-colonialism against Western Empire and solidarity towards emerging postcolonies. The stakes were high, because Hungarian anti-communist political refugees in the West were already racing to first develop anti-colonial solidarity towards postcolonial countries and persuade them against “Soviet colonialism”. Backed by the USA, Hungarian ex-premier and Smallholders’ Party leader Ferenc Nagy successfully popularised this line of critique in the International Peasant Union and the Assembly of Captive European Nations. Between 1954 and 1955, Nagy toured parts of Asia, including India, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Thailand, Burma, and Ceylon, and spoke with the ambassadors of various other non-European countries, in order to manipulate the outcome of the first conference of postcolonial countries in Bandung (1955). Eventually, he was successful. During his Asian trip, he emphasised the need for enlightening propaganda on Soviet communism and gave various speeches on “Russian colonialism in Europe”, which was met positively by local politicians and was extensively covered by local newspapers. Many Asian postcolonial countries – with a majority of religious, mainly Muslim populations – feared Soviet and Chinese communist expansion, and the Hungarian intervention convinced them to put forward the critique against “Soviet colonialism” – causing great surprise and panic in the socialist bloc. As Nagy argued,

“I used the anti-colonialist sentiment to present the Soviet Union as the most brutal colonial power, which colonised ten countries at a time when the Western powers freed more than ten countries from colonialism. In all meetings and press conferences I claimed that India should also include the liberation of Eastern European countries in the fight against colonialism. (…)

The people’s right to sovereignty means the disintegration of colonialism and imperialism. The Asian and African nations would make a serious mistake, if they only demanded the liberation of the old colonies, but not the new communist colonialism. The old colonialism is currently being disposed. After the war, decolonisation liberated 600 million people.

But why did decolonisation stop? Because on the other hand the Soviet colonized 100 million European people. The most important requirement of the annihilation of old colonies is the disintegration of Soviet colonies. This view must clearly come out from the Bandung resolution, because otherwise the resolution against colonialism would become unreal.”

American newspaper propaganda on the Bandung conference.

In the race for postcolonial recognition, the communist leadership in Hungary was losing initiative. The country could not pursue effective foreign policy due to internal crisis: war reparations, Stalinist takeover, Rákosi’s dictatorship, strained industrialisation, and finally pressures from state bankruptcy in 1952 and political chaos after Stalin’s death led to the Imre Nagy reform government (1953–55) and ultimately ignited the 1956 uprising. After the 1956 revolution, Hungarian communists struggled to persuade Third World countries to vote against the “Hungarian question” in the United Nations due to the Western condemnation of the Soviet invasion. The Khrushchevian opening up policy finally allowed Hungary to seek both international recognition and internal political legitimation by exporting its own model of development to the Third World, and relieve dependency from both Western economic and Soviet political influence.

Under similar pressures, Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah looked to the socialist world to relieve Western dependency and indebtedness. After his Eastern European trip (1961), he requested the Hungarian economist József Bognár to develop the newly decolonised African country’s First Seven-Year Plan in 1962. Although having known little about African contexts, Hungarian planners could obtain a good position in offering their development and planning expertise, since they had important precedents of interwar era state-directed planning. As a result of the Ghana job, Bognár advised various other postcolonial governments in Africa and Asia, and founded the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) in Budapest, which promoted export-oriented growth in order to reposition and integrate state-socialist Hungary in the global economy. Bognár introduced the concept of “poorly developed countries” to gain middle ground for experimenting with “third way” alternative development concepts between Cold War “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds, which offered the globally comparative reconceptualization of Hungarian development history and opened vistas for Hungarian development planning in the “Third World”. Bognár became a leading figure in foreign policy and the semi-capitalist reformist movement of the New Economic Mechanism (1968), into which he channeled his planning experiences from the “development laboratory” of postcolonial countries to support a mix of neoclassical economics and state-directed export-oriented growth.

Kwame Nkrumah meets Hungarian premier János Kádár at his summer resort in Balatonaliga in 1961.
Hungarian development economists arriving in Ghana in 1962. From left to right: Tamás Bácskai (Bognár’s assistant, associate professor), Péter Kós (first ambassador), Kwame Nkrumah (President of the Republic of Ghana), József Bognár (chief advisor), Gábor Székely (Bognár’s assistant, economic engineer).

Meanwhile, Hungarian refugee experts also worked as reform advisors in Latin America, Asia and Africa in order to counter global communism with the support of the U.S. government. Nagy continued with fellow Hungarians to lobby in the International Peasant Union and use his authenticity as a symbolic leader of the Hungarian peasant movement to advise non-European postcolonial governments and share the Hungarian experience of both colonial subjugation and agrarian reform. The famous folk writer and peasant movement politician Imre Kovács was also driven by similar motives in taking an Asian trip to Jakarta, Singapore, Colombo, India, Bali, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Beirut, and then to South America, the personal and professional experiences of which he summarised in his “village research” travel diary. Kovács then used his position to covince U.S. officials to establish the International Center for Social Research in 1962, which focused on Latin American agrarian and land reform with the plan to prevent the Cuban example to spread. As he recalled,

“I argued that the perspective of Eastern European experts works better in the peculiar relations of Latin America, compared to the North Americans, and their employment would also cost less. Let us recruit refugee Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian agronomists, economists, cultural engineers, who could after short training program acclimatize to the local context and with cooperative governments and begin agrarian reforms.”

In his diaries he drew parallels between the South American and Hungarian agrarian landscapes, rural society and interwar era socio-economic problems:

“I travelled around the continent, and everywhere I saw thirties Hungary: half-feudal society, half-dictatorial governments, large estate system, weak intelligentsia (…). The double-sidedness of politics was also the same: do reforms in a way that the old guard can stay intact.”

The colonial discourse and anti-colonial trajectories of Hungarian refugees were also taken up by the Hungarian anti-communist diaspora in Latin American, which was to strengthen after the new wave of refugees fleeing there as a result of the 1956 revolution.

Imre Kovács and László Varga in Latin America representing the Hungarian Committee and arguing for “Soviet colonialism”.

The context of post-WWII global rearrangement, the crumbling of Western empires and ongoing Afro-Asian decolonisation resulted in new forms of globalising Eastern Europe. Eastern Europeans from both side of the Iron Curtain were pressured by Cold War superpowers to use their peripheral positions to gain new allies among emerging non-European postcolonies. This led to competing constructions of Hungarian postcolonial identities and positions that may be shared with the Third World. Although in ultimate conflict, both communist and anti-communist projects shared the trajectory of gathering Eastern European colonial experiences to establish common ground with the non-European postcolonial periphery, thereby trying to include Eastern Europe into the global history of colonialism. Hungarian historical experiences of peripherality and colonial subjugation, such as during the Ottomans, the Habsburgs, or the Nazis – and for anti-communists, the Soviets or Russians – were taken as exemplary cases in the global colonial ecumene, and Hungarian communists demonstrated remarkable continuities in their anti-Western rhetoric reaching back to pre-1945 era critiques regarding these matters.

The process of Afro-Asian decolonisation and the simultaneous colonisation of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union (as proposed by many) also allowed for the globalisation of Hungarian knowledge and expertise. Hungarian refugees were forced to globalise their formerly nationalist frameworks of agricultural reforms, peasant communities and rural-garden social utopias on countering the urban/rural divide, and put these ideas into the service of solving the “peasant question” in the Third World. On the other side, communists promoted the Hungarian model of industrialisation, while experiences of interwar era agrarian underdevelopment and expertise in state-directed planning became important arguments to demonstrate that they were facing familiar problems in postcolonial countries. Both communists and anti-communists mobilised Hungary’s semiperipheral position in the global world system as a resource to gain currency in the global market of state-directed development planning. By drawing parallels between development histories of Hungary and other non-European contexts, including issues of relieving dependency and peripherality, communists and anti-communists both argued for their authentic position and unique competence in having an “Eastern European eye” to solving the great problems of the postcolonial Third World.


This research is part of my project entitled “Postcolonial Hungary” and was funded by the Socialism Goes Global project at the University of Exeter (2015–19). See: My project is based on empirical research in the archives of Ferenc Nagy and Imre Kovács held at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Special thanks goes to Professor James Mark for his outstanding help and support.

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Ginelli Z. (2019): The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Decolonialism in the Third World. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.12.23. Link:

The shifting hegemonic relations between American and German human geography in light of the quantitative revolution, 1900-1970s

This research project looks at two intertwined processes in the history of North American and German geography from the early 20th century to the 1970s. First, the shifting hegemonic relations between “theory-importer” United States and “theory-exporter” German human geography, in which a formerly peripheral US geography triumphed over its German counterpart and became hegemonic after WWII; second, this shift was connected to the post-WWII quantitative revolution in US and Canadian geography during the 1950s and 1970s, in which the discipline became a mathematical and rigorous Cold War spatial science. This project follows a transnational historical perspective in the historical geographies of scientific knowledge to look at how geographical knowledge circulated and interacted between North America and Germany. It does so by analyzing the influence and circulation of German geographical knowledge and location theories, most notably central place theory in urban and regional planning, which became a paradigmatic theory of Cold War geography internationally, and later re-influenced German geography from the late 1960s from the US. The research project is based on archival research and career path interviews with scholars connected to the quantitative revolution.

Two new abstracts sent to ICHG2018 and AAG2018

My latest plan is to send two abstracts to the 17th International Conference of Historical Geographers in Warsaw, July 15-20 and one – the latter abstract here provided – to the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in New Orleans, April 10-14 in 2018. In the first case, the first abstract will hopefully be part of the following session:


Global Histories of Geography 19301990

Convenors: Ruth Craggs (King’s College London) and Hannah Neate (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Reflecting on the key centres associated with the emergence of geography as a spatial science in the 1960s Barnes (2002, 508) remarked: “Why are places in Africa not on there, or Asia, or Australasia?” thereby highlighting significant gaps in disciplinary histories and accounts of geography’s development in the second half of the twentieth century. By way of response, this session aims to highlight work into the ‘global’ histories of geography in the period 1930-1990, a period marked by geopolitical transitions including WWII, decolonization and the end of the Cold War.  We are looking to make links with scholars who are carrying out research on the history and practice of geography, specifically in submissions that explore scholarly communities of geographers whose contribution to the development of geography in the twentieth century often goes unrecognised in the ‘canon’ of geographical research.

Possible themes for papers:

  • Papers focusing on geographers from the global South, Indigenous geographers in settler states, Asian geographies and geographers, geographers from the former Eastern Block
  • Biographies of individuals or groupings of geographers
  • Accounts that highlight how geography was being pursued in other ‘centres’
  • The role and development of national and international disciplinary associations and networks
  • Geographical knowledge, expertise and intersections with decolonization and the end of the Cold War


Historical geographies of the “quantitative revolution”: Towards a transnational history of central place theory

Geography’s “quantitative revolution” has been a true textbook chronicle in the discipline’s canonical history. However, historical research has only recently seriously begun to unravel the geographical contexts of its emergence, which is complicated by the simplified narratives that emerged in critical revisionism from the 1970s. This paper offers an interpretative framework from the perspective of the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (HGSK), by focusing on Christaller’s central place theory (CPT) to deconstruct the common Anglo-American narrative, arguing that it has concealed other contexts in the “Second” and “Third” worlds. Early applications (especially in Germany, Poland, Netherlands, Israel) and the wider European discourse of “central places” call for a reevaluation of the canonized narratives of CPT. The globalization of CPT is interpreted through the rising American hegemony in the early Cold War era, which led to the Americanization of German location theories in modernization theory discourse. Networks behind the American, British and Canadian centres show the importance of European locations, such as the Swedish hub in Lund, and the “planning laboratories” of Asian, South American and African contexts after decolonization. Soviet and Eastern Bloc reformism and the institutionalization of regional planning from the late 1950s summoned CPT in the service of centralized state planning, and ignited debates of adaptability between “socialist” and “capitalist” contexts. By reflecting on some of these cases, this paper argues for a transnational history of CPT by readdressing issues of narrativity and historical periodization, and shows the need for provincializing and decolonizing dominant Anglo-American geographical knowledge production.


“The Ghana job”: Opening Hungary to the developing world

Based on interviews, archival and media sources, this paper looks at how post-WWII socialist Hungary developed foreign economic relations with decolonized countries, by focusing on the emergence of Hungarian development and area studies and development advocacy expertise towards developing countries. The paper’s case study is the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) founded at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1963 – from 1973 the Institute for World Economy (IWE) – parallel to similar institutions founded in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc states. CAAR was established as a government think tank by József Bognár, a close friend to Prime Minister János Kádár and perhaps one of the most important figures in socialist era Hungarian reform economics and foreign policy-making. The institute rose as a consequence of the “Ghana job”: Hungarian economists led by Bognár developed the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana in 1962. The associates of CAAR and IWE promoted export-oriented growth against import-substitution industrialization and summoned geographical development concepts such as “poorly developed countries”, “dependency”, “semiperiphery”, “open economies”, or “small countries” as alternatives to the Cold War categories of “capitalist” and “socialist” world systems. This shift in geographical knowledge production is connected to the geopolitical contexts of the Sino-Soviet split, the Khrushchevian “opening up” of foreign relations, the emergence of the “Third World”, and also the 1956 revolution in the case of Hungary. The role of Ghana and the Eastern Bloc is connected to the 1960s wave of transnational development consultancy and strategies of “socialist globalization”.

Hungary and Ghana, 1950s-1960s

21083554_1409636279072924_5180471301300472123_oMy research report to the Open Society Archives turned out to be a draft of a lengthy working paper that summarizes some of the materials I have been working with. You can read about my OSA research proposal here.

Even from this vastly text I had to leave out a lot of other materials. Unfortunately I will only have time to work again on this later, so I decided to share here some thoughts that could not be included.

One of the books that were very influential to me (but haven’t included into the draft) gave me a great overview of the early Eastern European relations towards decolonizing/ed Africa (the “Third World”). What I find most interesting is not only the relative autonomy of the Eastern Bloc in developing their foreign relations, but also the continuities between previous colonial era and postcolonial relations. Another issue is the role of China, not only how the Sino-Soviet split influenced the Soviet Union to maintain the relative autonomy of the Eastern Bloc, but also China’s early postcolonial trajectories in gaining a foothold in Africa.


“By 1958, well before substantial new opportunities arose south of the Sahara, East Europe’s trade with Asia, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa was already greater than that of the Soviet Union; ithad more than doubled since 1954 and amounted to approximately five per cent of the area’s total trade. Some of this commercial activity, of course, was no more than a partial return to normal trade patterns that had been interrupted by the war and later inhibited for political and ideological reasons. Yet the very fact that old patterns existed and could be resumed was important, since the arrival of East European traders and governmental representatives in Africa did not appear to the new states as a novel or menacing overture, but rather as a natural resumption of established policies.”

— Robert and Elizabeth Bass: Eastern Europe, in: Zbigniew Brzezinski: Africa and the Communist World, Hoover Institution, 1963, p. 88.

Hungarian development experts worked on the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana

20993964_1407344005968818_1387830529126103512_nA magyar közgazdász delegáció megérkezése Accrába 1962-ben, hogy kidolgozzák Ghána hétéves tervét. Balról jobbra: Bácskai Tamás (Bognár asszisztense, egyetemi docens), Kós Péter (nagykövet), Kwame Nkrumah (a Ghánai Köztársaság elnöke), Bognár József (főtanácsadó), Székely Gábor (Bognár asszisztense, mérnökközgazdász).

The Hungarian delegation of economists arrive in Accra to develop Ghana’s First Seven-Year Plan in 1962. From left to right: Tamás Bácskai (Bognár’s assistant, associate professor), Péter Kós (first ambassador), Kwame Nkrumah (President of the Republic of Ghana), József Bognár (chief advisor), Gábor Székely (Bognár’s assistant, economic engineer).

Magyar Hírek, 1962. május 1.

Speaking from the Semi-Periphery: Decolonizing Geographical Knowledge Production in Socialist Hungary, 1960s to 1980s

In recent months I’ve prepared a new research plan/paper on the stuff I’ve been doing, connected to my work in the 1989 After 1989 project:

The “spatial turn” in the history of scientific knowledge has called into question abstract notions of scientific development and specifically national disciplinary and institutional narratives. The past two decades has seen a growing number of studies in the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (HGSK), aiming to understand where knowledge is produced and disseminated, and how the content of knowledge changes in motion and adapts to local contexts and social interests (Livingstone 2003; Powell 2007; Withers 2009). Recently, increased globalization has summoned an upsurge of research focusing on interconnectedness through knowledge networks and circulations, transnational histories and global comparative studies, arguing against the “methodological nationalism” of previous research in favour of alternative transnational concepts (Keim et al. 2014; Conrad 2016).

On the other hand, postcolonial and decolonial approaches have contested Eurocentric or Westcentric epistemological frameworks and discursive formations, providing a reassessment of multiple or alternative modernities and elucidating the hierarchical orders of knowledge regimes (Chakrabarty 2007; Boatca and Costa 2012). However, much of this original literature on postcolonialism focused either on the global centre or the former colonial world, silencing in-between semiperipheral contexts such as Eastern Europe under transitory and provincialised terms such as “postsocialism,” while there has been little theorizing between the “posts” (Chari and Verdery 2009). This marginalization process has also led to the concealment of Second-Third World relations and the interdependency of centre and periphery contexts in an interconnected global context (Ward 2010; Mark and Apor 2014).

While the perceived non-colonial background of Eastern Europe provided excuses for many in the region to distance themselves from postcolonial studies (Moore 2001), historical studies have nevertheless shown the existence of long-term structures of hierarchical dependency and East-West “civilizational slopes” even since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment (Wolff 1994), which have well endured into socialist and postsocialist times (Melegh 2006). This continuity is well captured by the self-Orientalizing development and geographical concepts in social science, geography and economic history (Petrovici 2015). These can be exemplified by various contexts: the enduring dichotomies of “Eastern” and “Western” development (Éber et al. 2014), the “catching-up” neoliberalist transitology (Stenning and Hörschelman 2008), the “civilizing mission” of European Union accession (Böröcz and Sarkar 2005), the subaltern adaptation of development policy models, and the uneven reproduction of Western academic hegemony.

This research argues for “decolonizing” diffusionist and neoevolutionist theories that have been appropriated as the dominant narrative of the global centre and imposed upon the Eastern European context (Boatca and Costa 2012). Simultaneously it argues for a global perspective of transnational interconnectedness in understanding Eastern European developments in the production of geographical knowledge. It does so by using contemporary literature in critical geography and international relations, and specifically in postcolonial, decolonial theory and world-systems analysis to deconstruct internalised structures of dependency and global hierarchies inherent in Eastern European geographical epistemologies. By “speaking from the semiperiphery,” it aims to reassemble local knowledge production on global geographical concepts, in light of overlooked global historical interconnectivity between “East” and “West.” The research aims to apply these theoretical insights to understanding how Hungarian reform economists tried to position the country in various global imaginations between the 1960s and 1980s in the context of integrating into the world economy and thus breaking away with Cold War concepts amidst increasing global competition and economic restructuration due to crises.

After World War II, the imperialist and nationalist-revisionist ambitions of the Hungarian state elite crumbled with the demise of the previous “high imperialist” era. The Communist takeover and the process of Sovietization created a new setting under the imperial and colonial influence of the Soviet Union, and a rise of economist experts succeeding the pre-WWII primacy of geographers. Stalinist orthodoxy summoned a dichotomous Cold War imagination of separate “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds, soon to be called “world systems,” while the production of geographical knowledge and textbooks on regional geography also followed this essential dichotomy. But the détente period after de-Stalinisation and the gradual opening up of diplomatic and trade relations due to an economic upturn in the world economy and the process of decolonisation led to reconfigurations in global geographical and development imaginations.

The maintaining of the Eastern European “buffer zone” necessitated the Soviet Union to foster trade relations both with the West and the so-called Third World. Eastern European reformers in Poland and Hungary pushed towards “market socialism”, as acquiring advanced technology and foreign currency from the West implied finding ways to finance development either through foreign loans or export-oriented growth, and facilitated exporting expertise and investments into the Third World and searching for state-led development models abroad, such as in Spain, South Korea and Chile (Bockman, Feygin and Mark forthcoming). These reformist ambitions generated a virulent debate and the emergence of new geographical concepts connected to the country’s shifting foreign trade policies and lobbying activity in international organizations (UN, UNCTAD, GATT) in order to manoeuvre between “East” and “West.”

While the concept of the “Third World” was disregarded by Eastern European socialist countries, they aimed to reposition themselves between “developed” and “undeveloped” countries in an urge to “catch up” with the West. By the 1970s in Hungary, some new concepts such as “semi-periphery,” “small economies” (Kádár 1971), “open economies” (Kozma 1980) had emerged in the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1965-) and the Institute for World Economy (1973-) at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which consequently developed the new field of area studies. In turn, some Western concepts, such as Wallersteinian world-systems analysis and the concept of “semiperiphery” were influenced by Eastern European economic historiography. In later developments, the series of Fejlődés-tanulmányok [Development Studies] published in 1978–1989 and journals such as Világtörténet [World History] introduced the new fields of development studies, world-systems analysis, centre-periphery thinking and postcolonial theory into the fields of area studies and international relations.

This research thus aims to understand through historical materials of scientific publications and policy papers connected to these institutions how alternative geographical conceptions of socialist globalization emerged and permeated global imaginations in area studies. The theoretical-methodological novelty of this research lies in connecting the approaches of transnational or global history, political economy and the history of ideas: Hungarian semiperipheral knowledge production is conceptualised in the interconnected contexts of centre-periphery relations.


Boatca, M., Costa, S. (2012): Postcolonial Sociology: A Research Agenda. In: Rodríguez, E. G., Boatca, M. (eds.): Decolonizing European Sociology: Transdisciplinary Approaches. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.

Bockman, J., Feygin, Y., Mark, J. (forthcoming): The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Alternative Globalisations 1950s–1980s. Manuscript.

Böröcz, J., Sarkar, M. (2005): What is the EU? International Sociology, 20(2): 153–173.

Chakrabarty, D. (2007): Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chari, S., Verdery, K. (2009): Thinking Between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51(1): 6–34.

Conrad, S. (2016): What is Global History? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Éber, M., Gagyi, Á., Gerőcs, T., Jelinek, C., Pinkasz, A. (2014): 1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltozás globális politikai gazdaságtanához. Fordulat, 21.: 10–63.

Gille, Z. (2010): Is there a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society, 24(1): 9–30.

Kádár, B. (1971): Kis országok a világgazdaságban. Budapest: Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó.

Keim, W., Celik, E., Erche, C., Wöhrer, V. (eds.)(2014): Global Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences: Made in Circulation. Corchester (UK): Ashgate.

Kozma, F. (1980): A nyitott szerkezetű gazdaság. Budapest: Kossuth.

Livingstone, D. N. (2003): Putting Science in its Place: Geographies of Scientific Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mark, J., Apor, P. (2014): Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary, 1956–1989. The Journal of Modern History, 87: 852–891.

Melegh, A. (2006): On the East-West Slope: Globalization, Nationalism, Racism and Discourses on Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest: CEU Press.

Moore, D. C. (2001): Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique. PMLA, 116(1): 111–128.

Petrovici, N. (2015): Framing Criticism and Knowledge Production in Semi-peripheries: Post-socialism Unpacked. Intersections, 1(2):

Powell, R. C. (2007): Geographies of Science: Histories, Localities, Practices, Futures. Progress in Human Geography, 31(3): 309–329.

Stenning, A., Hörschelman, K. (2008): History, Geography and Difference in the Post-Socialist World: Or, Do We Still Need Post-Socialism? Antipode, 40(2): 312–335.

Ward, S. (2010): Transnational Planners in a Postcolonial World. In: Healey, P., Upton, R. (eds.): Crossing Borders: International Exchange and Planning Practices. London and New York: Routledge. 47–72.

Withers, C. W. J. (2009): Place and the “Spatial Turn” in Geography and in History. Journal of the History of Ideas, 70(4): 637–658.

Wolff, L. (1994): Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford University Press.

Deconstructing Cold War ideology in Powers of Ten

Introduction and argument

Powers of Ten is a highly influential short ’documentary-style’ movie directed in 1977 by life partners Charles and Ray Eames (dir. 1977). Through its 9 minutes we are assisted by a narrator in our journey to explore the vast scales of the universe, as we lift up vertically from a man lying asleep in a picnic scene in Chicago into outer space, and as we reach the perimeters of material existence, a replay starts and we then suddenly plunge back into the deeper levels of the man’s body, accross tissue, cells, DNA and finally terminating at the level of subatomic particles. The film gets its name from the fact that we are moving through the mathematical orders of magnitude of the powers of ten on a logarithmic scale (which makes our movement seemingly linear in time), with every ten seconds reaching ten times greater (or smaller) altitudes and frames of vision than in our previous positions. This film is an interpretation of a small educational book, Cosmic View by Dutch author Kees Boeke (1957), which used pictoral ’snapshots’ of different levels in the journey.


Boeke’s graphics of levels of magnitude (Boeke 1957)

Powers of Ten is actually two movies, since the Eameses created its first ’sketch’ version in 1968 with a more telling title of A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe (hereafter: Rough Sketch; dir. 1968)[1]. Scientific representations such as these have significant impact on forming popular culture and opinion through their circuits of culture (Burgess and Gold 1985; Du Gay 1997; Cloke et al. 2004: 104). This film quickly became very popular and was widely distributed as educational material, even quite recently it has been circulating on the internet in a new, „updated”, web-based remake version as an interactive application (Huang 2012), but there is also a blog on the film (Powers of Ten Blog 2012), and an interesting interpretation trying to transpose its idea onto Earth’s history (Long Now 2012), and it has even been distributed widely by geographers (e.g. on the list server for critical geography). As for my personal application, during a workshop on critical urban studies in Hungary, which became „invaded” by critical geographers such as myself, I held a class on the topic of scale, where I used the film as a demonstration by deconstructing its underlying narratives, drawing heavily on Mark Dorrian’s recent article in a magazine (Dorrian 2012).

My argument will be that the film should not be evaluated as just a useful and impressive demonstration of proportions and scale in the world, but can in fact only be understood in the light of its original Cold War techno-political context and as a vehicle for a certain type of geographical knowledge and imagination (Gregory 1994; 1995). The film is a manifestation of the close connections between different technologies and knowledge, as Cold War ’technoscience’ rested on great investments and developments in instruments of perception and quantification, machines of calculation (computation), modelling, manipulation and space science, and also a certain positivistic ideology of science. In analysing the film, I will be ’reading it out’ as a text (Chatman 1978: 41-42), decoding signifiers from its semiotic landscape and deconstructing its master-narrative in order to unfold the specific cultural, political and ideological messages it is trying to address to the viewer (see Jackson 1989: 47–54). In this analysis, I am drawing heavily on semiotics and theories of narrativity, especially on film and media (Chatman 1978; 1990; Currie 1998; Lothe 2000; Mitry 2000), another important resource is the philosophy of poststructuralism (Said 2003; Derrida 1993; 1998) and resources explaining contextual background relations in which the film should be placed.

A glimpse of the Cold War context

Powers of Ten was one of the directors’ final films. The Eameses had good relations with contemporary US mega-corporations, and were also ingenious designers of consumer goods of modern technology of their time. As Dorrian (2012) describes, their whole activity followed the shift from a modernist economy of consumer goods to a postmodernist economy of sign production. Apart from Powers of Ten, they also created for IBM an educational-cum-ideological film on computer technology, The Information Machine (dir. 1958). They even made an installation called Glimpses of the USA (dir. 1959), which was one of the main attractions representing American society at the American National Exhibition in Moscow (coordinated by the United States Information Agency), and where the famous ’kitchen debate’ between the capitalist USA and the communist USSR took place. Therefore, the directors’ activity and the meanings entailed in their products can only be understood in the geopolitically contested epistemological (Edwards 1996) and regulating (Du Gay 1997) context of the Cold War era.

The symbolic setting of the picnic scene

Although the opening few seconds of a couple having a picnic seems rather secondary for the whole framework of the film and relatively unimportant after the unfolding immensity of surrounding global (subhuman) space (other versions used different opening settings; Boeke 1957; Eames and Eames dir. 1968; Szasz dir. 1968), it is key in understanding the film’s whole message, because it develops the setting for our long travel in carefully planted symbolics.


The picnic scene

As Dorrian (2012) highlights it, on the blanket there lies a book, Voices of Time (1966), edited by J. T. Fraser, a contemporary physicist and social scientist, which is about the philosophy of time, and which also has a mandala on its cover. However, as Dorrian notes, this title is also identical to a science-fiction novel by J. G. Ballard, The Voices of Time and Other Stories, where the main character is a scientist interestingly called Powers, who is suffering from a fatal ’narcoma syndrome’, seeing numbers of a catastrophic countdown, and following the dystopic visionary of the story, he eventually falls asleep (just as the man in the picnic) for eternity in the middle of a mandala, where his mind dissolves into the universe. There are other less complex signifiers showing the importance of time: below the book is another one with a cover of a large clock, and the man’s wristwatch is also pointing directly towards us. There are also two magazines, Scientific American and Science, both prominent works of ’high’ science, which not only suggest the ’sleep into reason’, as Dorrian shows, but also point to the national scientific regime we are being subjected to, since these are symbols of the actual producers of the knowledge and technology which will enable us our space travel and to perceive underlying entities of the physical world. Becoming subject to these powers, we become the subjects of technology, which is in the forefront of Cold War imperialism, as science became a ’national project’. But in my view, not just the symbolic setting, the camera angle is also important: for just a few seconds, but we see the couple from a horizontal, lively perspective, quite close to us, their faces happy. As the narrator describes, „the picnic near the lakeside of Chicago was a start of a lazy afternoon, early one October” (Eames and Eames dir. 1977). Getting into such rich subjective detail serves to relax the viewers mind, and opens the plot, showing the raw material of which the rationally measured compartmentalizing would work with. Dorrian (2012) tellingly notes, that the outward zoom is a „vertiginous, abyssal collapse of the everyday reality”, but here this reality is also the asymmetric ’Other’ of the narrative (Said 2003), the aporia of the text, where the dichotomy could be contrasted with and broken up against the logocentric master-narrative of the film (Derrida 1993; 1998). We might say that sensual place itself, as the ’world of humans’ is represented in the picnic scene, which will be devoured by the infinite, progressive space of eternal material existence and mathematical rationality (see e.g. Agnew 2005).

The master-narrative of the plot: travel in space and time

When we lift off, the fixed framing and the stable movement of the camera suggests that we are not in control, rather we are following the lead of technology, it is like we are riding a rocket. In fact Rough Sketch is much more revealing, since the camera starts from Florida, the ’emblematic point of departure for the Apollo missions’ (Dorrian 2012). The role of the narrator is crucial, since it supplements the narrative effects of the medium of visuality with an oral guidance on identifying the entities which are unfolding (Lothe 2000: 41), therefore the viewer is given a structured sequence (Chatman 1978: 30). This narration helps to form a story guideline, but also strengthens the film’s documentary style (it is in present tense), contrary to it being actually a fiction. This is necessary because the entities presented, although exist in reality, are fictious in the sense that they are graphic representations, and are carved out of reality by the language of science, thus appearing as holistic forms, Gestalts on the screen. Behind his seemingly passive observer image, the narrator therefore has complete control and power over events and ’sees through’ the linear scales, he is in the ’God’s eye’ view of the camera – he is more our pilot in the rocket ride, the spokesperson of technology, native to the unfolding new world.

In the film, scale is represented as a continuous, relative immanent substance, which cuts right through and reorders the physical reality of the world in mathematical proportions. The previously ’destructed’ reality thus becomes measurable, and this measurement in advance gives it meaning for abstract consciousness by making it rationally observable and explainable. The importance of vision is crucial here, for we are presented with a mirror-reflection of reality (we are presented with facts, concealing the apparatus and locally produced knowledge used to create these particular representations of reality), and the linearity develops an intimate linkage between thought and vision (Burnett 1995: 3–14). The film builds on a masculinist disembodiment, a modernist detachment of senses (touch, smell, hearing), we measure solely with our eyes, to „a position in which the body devolves into the eye, and vision shifts from exploration to consumption, from the insecurities of watching to a fixed gaze.” (Burnett 1995: 5) This ’cartographic rationality’ of holistic depiction is enforced by the ideology of vision (Cosgrove 2003; 2006), and since the film is only ’one cut’, we are locked in a bounded, striated space that only seemingly opens. The linearity and ’God’s eye’ ’view from nowhere and from everywhere’ of the camera serves to naturalize this idea of scaling order by the ’God-trick’ (Haraway 1988) of enmeshing human relations into an abstract totality, and subjecting human life to this overarching Cartesian anxiety of a geometrized order (Bernstein 1983), which is a product of a particular kind of embodied vision and technological regime (as in other cases of abstract space and the geometries linear perspective: Cosgrove 2003; 2006; Olwig 2002). I should remark here, concerning geographical knowledge production, that in geography, „quantifiers” were drawing on this same relativity rising from systems theory to question the „absolute” space of previous regional geography, the one this film is also to defute, presenting a „relative” space (see e.g. Barnes 1996). Regions, fixed and particular areas of human culture (Chicago, America, Earth) are broken up by a scientistic master-narrative of mathematical manipulation and computation.





Leaving Planet Earth

But if scale brings relativity and is continuous, are there scalar levels, which have autonomous ontological fields of existence? Through this travel, we meet in every enmeshed ’step at a ten’ with a new world of beings, the narrator marking them out from the linear rush: atoms, cells, galaxies etc. (Eames and Eames dir. 1977). These are the entities of the natural sciences, and foremost physics – this shows the uneven importance of different sciences in the period, and especially the high dominance of physics. This Cold War picture of ’big science’ still sits strong in today’s perceived image, and since physics deals with the ’grand scales’ of our universe (from atom to universe), the whole travel is a hymn for this ideology. As Dorrian (2012) rightly concludes, there is a circular narrative along the curve connecting the two points of the (starting) outer space of space and the (ending) inner space of the subatomic level, which practically devour and dominate the tiny level of human existence (see Appendices 5. and 6.). This rythm also creates a sense of wholeness (Mitry 2000: 221–223), which universalizes and naturalizes the specific idea of scale.


The void


The subatom level

There is also a sort of colonial narrative running underneath, since the ’opening up’ function of mathematics and the ’looking down’ vertical angles enforce an urge for adventure and conquest into the newly unfolding ’void’ but ’energetic’ worlds (Gregory 1994), therefore supporting a masculine narrative of control and manipulation (Haraway 1988), which fits well with the ideology of the Cold War nation-state subjecting people under the infinite progress of science and technology (Edwards 1996). This idea of progress connects back and associates to the temporal symbolics of the picnic scene, since the travel in space is a travel in time as in the seemingly proportional spatial travel we are actually accelerating outwards (in fact, in Rough Sketch, there are counters on the left of the screen measuring Earth and space time), and when diving into subhuman levels, the ’world of atoms’ show a speeded-up environment of a futuristic utopia. And this in all closes the circle.


In my view, Powers of Ten represents a Cold War ideology of science, where the subject of the individual becomes interpellated through the ideology of technology and mathematical rationality to the nation-state (Currie 1998: 17–32). Narrativity is substantial in constituting the subject through repetition, as

„it repeats and confirms the possibilities of identification that have already constituted our subjectivities. This is more than claiming that narrative reflects life. It is saying that narrative is one of the ways in which identity, the ideological subject, is manufactured.” (Currie 1998: 32)

The travel through space is a travel through space-time with an embedded hierarchy of space dominating over place and time dominating over space, showing a futuristic-utopistic mentality, which aims the subject towards the missionary conquest of space travel. The void of outer and inner space resemble to a modernist open space of free manipulation and colonial conquest, as man brings order to everyday-life reality through mediating abstract space. The conception of scale is epistemologically constructed through human relations (see Herod 2011), and the geometrized vision of scale presented here is a specific construction universalized through a careful association of signifiers.



Agnew, J. (2005) Space : Place. In: Cloke, Paul – Johnston, Ron J. (eds.) Spaces of Geographical Thought: Deconstructing Geography’s Binaries. Sage, London – Thousand Oaks – New Delhi, 81–96.

Barnes, T. J. (1996) Logics of dislocation: Models, metaphors, and meanings of economic space. The Guilford Press, New York and London.

Bernstein, R. (1983) Beyond objectivism and relativism: science, hermeneutics, and praxis. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Boeke, K. (1957) Cosmic view: The universe in forty jumps. The John Day Company, New York.

Burgess, J. and Gold, J. R. (1985) Geography, the media & popular culture. Croom Helm.

Burnett, R. (1995) Cultures of vision: Images, media, and the imaginary. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Chatman, S. (1978) Story and discourse: Narrative structure in fiction and film. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.

Chatman, S. (1990) Coming to terms: The rhetoric of narrative in fiction and film. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.

Cloke et al. (2004) Practising human geography. SAGE.

Cosgrove, D. (1993) The Palladian landscape: geographical change and its cultural representations in sixteenth-century Italy. Leicester, Leicester University Press.

Cosgrove, D. (2003) Apollo’s eye: a cartographic genealogy of the earth in western imagination. The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Cosgrove, D. (2006) Geographical imagination and the authority of images: Hettner-Lecture 2005. Steiner, Stuttgart.

Currie, M. (1998) Postmodern narrative theory. Macmillan Press, London.

Derrida, J. (1993) Aporias. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Derrida, J. (1998) Of Grammatology. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Dorrian, M. (2012) Adventure on the Vertical: Powers of Ten and the Mastery of Space by Vision. Cabinet, 2012, 44, 17–23.

Du Gay, P. (1997) Doing cultural studies: the story of the Sony. Sage.

Eames, C. and Eames, R. (dir. 1958) The Information Machine: International Business Machines (IBM), Office of Charles and Ray Eames.

Eames, C. and Eames, R. (dir. 1968) A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe: Commission on College Physics, Office of Charles and Ray Eames.

Eames, C. and Eames, R. (dir. 1977) Powers of Ten: International Business Machines (IBM), Office of Charles and Ray Eames.

Edwards, P. N. (1996) The closed world: Computers and the politics of discourse in Cold War America. The MIT Press, Cambridge and London.

Gregory, D. (1995) Imaginative Geographies. Progress in Human Geography, 19(4), 447–85.

Gregory, D. (1994) Geographical imaginations. Blackwell, Cambridge and Oxford.

Haraway, D. (1988) Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilige of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575–599.

Herod, A. (2011) Scale: Key Ideas in Geography. Routledge, London and New York.

Huang, C. (2012) The Scale of the Universe 2. Available at: [Access date: 2 Dec 2012]

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Long Now (2012) The Long Now Foundation web-site. Available at: [Access date: 2 Dec 2012]

Lothe, J. (2000) Narrative in fiction and film: An introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Mitry, J. (2000) Semiotics and the Analysis of Film. The Athlone Press, London.

Olwig, K. R. (2002) Landscape, nature, and the body politic: From Britain’s renaissance to America’s New World. The University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin.

Powers of Ten Blog (2012) Powers of Ten Blog web-site. Available at: [Access date: 2 Dec 2012]

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Silleck, B. (dir. 1996) Cosmic Voyage: IMAX.

Szasz, E. (dir. 1968) Cosmic View: National Film Board of Canada.


[1] Curiously there is also a Canadian version of the same idea, Cosmic View, which is more explicitly based on Boeke’s book, uses more sketchy drawings than realistic, documentary-like images, has a more pleasant music instead of futuristic sci-fi themes, and goes without a narrator (Szasz dir. 1968). Even more curiously, there is a very modern reinterpretation of this idea produced by IMAX, Cosmic Voyage (Silleck dir. 1996), where the narrator is the Hollywood star Morgan Freeman. I have used Powers of Ten as the demonstration of this ’idea’ for several reasons, but above all because of the delicate symbolics that are developed in the movie, as against other interpretations.