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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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2020): The forgotten Polish link in the global history of the “quantitative revolution”. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.01.01. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2020/01/01/the-forgotten-polish-link-in-the-global-history-of-the-quantitative-revolution/

The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Decolonialism 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 Colombia 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.

Acknowledgements

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: http://socialismgoesglobal.exeter.ac.uk. 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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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2019): The Clash of Colonialisms: Hungarian Communist and Anti-Communist Decolonialism in the Third World. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.12.23. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/12/23/the-clash-of-colonialisms-hungarian-communist-and-anti-communist-decolonialism-in-the-third-world

The Semiperipheral Positioning Politics of the Hungarian Authoritarian Turn

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the 2018 Turkic Council in Cholpon Ata (Source: merce.hu)

“We will not become colonies” – so goes the official statement of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has since 2010 been labeling his government an “illiberal democracy” or recently “Christian democracy”, whilst revitalizing anti-Western nationalist victimization against both postsocialist neoliberalization and the European Union, and drawing up civilizational-racial demarcation against the global periphery. The political analyses of Orbán’s authoritarian turn have dominantly focused on identifying this “new type” of authoritarianism: whether and to what extent it is democratic, what political typology it fits into (e.g. “hybrid regimes” or “semi-authoritarian regimes”), or how is it embedded in a global rightwing turn or a new neoliberal or neoconservative authoritarianism. However, these institutionalist approaches are geographically unreflective and inherently conceptualize from the lack of democracy and Western values, thereby reproducing East-West dichotomies and local self-colonization, failing to understand the local historical epistemologies and experiences Orbán’s political regionalism (“classical” Europe, Central Europe, Eurasia) and colonial discourse is based upon. The seemingly “irreconcilable” and “antagonistic” positions of this political discourse have specific functions connected to the new geographical alliances and scalar politics of Hungarian semiperipheral world-systemic integration. This paper analyses Hungarian political discourse from a postcolonial and world-systemic perspective to understand the semiperipheral geographical positioning of the country in-between the global center and periphery.

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

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

 

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

 

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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2019): The Semiperipheral Colonial Alternative: Visions of Hungarian Catholic Postcoloniality in Latin America. Critical Geographies Blog. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/07/11/the-semiperipheral-colonial-alternative-visions-of-hungarian-catholic-postcoloniality-in-latin-america

Socialist Worlds on Screen: Beyond Black and White

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Download poster and program.

Film Festival

Cinema Union (Bucharest, 24–27 June 2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 24

18.30

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

Director: Octavio Cortázar

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

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

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

 

20.40

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

Director: Andrei Konchalovsky.

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

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

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

 

Tuesday June 25

20.00

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

Director: Maia Weiss.

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, June 26

20.00

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

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

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

 

20.55

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

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

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

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

 

Thursday, June 27

19.00

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

Director: Sarah Maldoror.

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

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

Screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.

 

19.50

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

Director – Jihan El Tahri.

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

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

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

Postcolonial Hungary: The Positioning Politics of Semiperipheral Post/Coloniality

Jon Brett

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

Abstract

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

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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2019): Postcolonial Hungary: The Positioning Politics of Semiperipheral Post/Coloniality. Critical Geographies Blog. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/05/19/postcolonial-hungary-the-positioning-politics-of-semiperipheral-post-coloniality

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

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

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

Convenors:

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

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

– PRESENTATION CANCELLED –

Abstract

János Xántus (1825–1894) is remembered as one of the most famed Hungarian natural scientists of the 19th century. As a zoologist and ethnographer, he was a strong supporter and contributor to the Hungarian National Museum, corresponding fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1859), founder and first director of the first Hungarian zoo (1866) and the Ethnographic Museum (1872), and founding member of the Hungarian Geographical Society (1872). Becoming a political refugee after the failed 1848–49 Hungarian war of independence from the Habsburg Empire, in the 1850s and early 1960s he was drawn into North American expeditions, and developed a vast network to transfer specimens regularly back to Hungary. Finally returning to Hungary (for the second time), after the Austro-Hungarian compromise (1867) he gained the opportunity during 1869–71 to participate in a series of imperial expeditions to East and Southeast Asia, including Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, Java, China, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Borneo. The original plan of the Austro-Hungarian expedition was to develop foreign trade relations with the opening of the Suez Canal, but it did not fulfill this promise and internal political tensions evolved between Austrian and Hungarian counterparts. This paper focuses on this expedition to explore a postcolonialist and critical geographical interpretation of Xántus, and to elucidate his activities in colonial networks and his global comparative ideas about colonialism and race. This reading aims to epistemologically contest the dominantly biographical and documentary accounts of Xántus, which follow institutionalist or nationalist legitimation logics (focusing on his collections, personality and merits) and seldom engage critically with the wider social, economic, political-ideological and racial contexts of colonialism. While Xántus’ activities relied on national, imperial and colonial power networks and interests, he was known for his critique of colonialism and his solidarity with the colonially suppressed, and made various colonial and racial comparisons between his local Hungarian and foreign experiences. This paper aks whether he pursued Eurocentrism or anti-Eurocentric criticism in his Asian interpretations, and how his depictions of the East fitted in the wider colonial discourse of Western or European Orientalism. The case of Xántus may shed light on how Hungarian colonial knowledge production was embedded in global colonialism.

xántus utazásai

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

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

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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

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!