Opening Hungary to Global Colonialism: János Xántus and Hungarian Orientalism in East and Southeast Asia

Josef Püttner: SMS Novara in Venice, after 1862. Xántus sailed on this Austrian ship to Asia. Source: Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.

Why is Eastern Europe still on the margins of colonial history? This historical silence is partly due to Western knowledge hegemony, but partly because Eastern Europeans have routinely positioned themselves as “always colonised” but “never having colonies”, thereby victimising themselves and denying their historical participation in global colonialism. Under “colonial rule” since Ottoman occupation (1526), but later as part of the Habsburg Empire, from the mid-19th century on, Hungarians increasingly sought in their contested, in-between semiperipheral position to open up to global colonialism.[1] This process may be demonstrated by the Asian expeditions of János Xántus (1825–1894), one of the most famed Hungarian natural scientists of the 19th century.

Zoologist and ethnographer, Xántus was founding 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). He became a political refugee due to serving as officer in the failed 1848–49 Hungarian war of independence from the Habsburg Empire, in the 1850s and early 1860s he was drawn into North American expeditions, wrote about the culture and colonial subjugation of Indians, and developed a vast network to transfer specimens regularly back to Hungary. Upon his final return to Hungary, he was given the opportunity after the Austro-Hungarian compromise (1867) to participate in a series of imperial expeditions to East and Southeast Asia during 1868–71, which included Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, Java, China, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Borneo. Austrians had planned to open up to the East since 1860, but expeditions were delayed due to internal conflicts, the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866, and the execution of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian in Mexico in 1967. The Austro-Hungarian expedition was to develop foreign trade relations and secure colonial positions in Southeast and East Asia with the opening of the Suez Canal (1869). However, the expedition did not fulfil its promise, and was torn by internal political tensions between Austrian and Hungarian counterparts: as a “1848er” independence fighter, Xántus struggled to have the expedition serve Hungarian national interests against Austrian suppression.

Description: ántus utazásai
Map of the the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’s East Asian expedition – straight: joint route of the Donau frigate and the Erzherzog Friedrich corvette; dashed: route of the Donau frigate through South America; dotted: route of the Erzherzog Friedrich through Suez. Source: Gyarmati János (2019): Xántus kontra Scherzer – Az osztrák-magyar kelet-ázsiai expedíció és Xántus János. A Földgömb.

This paper gives a postcolonialist, critical geographical, and global historical re-interpretation of this expedition based on the travel writing of Xántus published during 1877–1886.[2] Against the dominantly biographical and documentary accounts on Xántus, which follow institutional or nationalist legitimation logics in presenting his “heroic” figure (focusing on his collections, personality and merits), this study instead engages with his activities in colonial networks, his descriptions of local industry and European export ambitions, and his global comparative ideas about colonialism and race, including comparisons between his local Hungarian, Eastern European, and Asian experiences. Whilst Xántus was known for his humanist critique of colonialism and solidarity with the colonially suppressed (especially in the case of North American Indians), his Asian travelogues shed light on his staunch support for the European colonial system, and how his activities relied on and contributed to national and imperial power networks and interests. In Borneo, he praised British colonialism against the Dutch, who “achieved success by resorting to the iron rod, absolute tyranny, and treaded ruthlessly upon all human rights (…), while England introduced to all its colonies English self-government, and shared its own freedoms with the conquered”.[3] As a prolific writer, he constructed his reporting credibility through various modalities, references, and practices, and contributed to a positive geographical imagination of the “fresh” and “juvenile” tropics ripe for exploration and exposed to masculine colonial practices of overcoming nature.[4] Swaying between imperialist Eurocentrism and anti-Eurocentric criticism, his depictions of the East fitted into the wider colonial discourse of European Orientalism, but through an Eastern European eye. His travelogues detailed the global political economy of the Hungarian diaspora, such as plantation workers, officers, traders, or the global remittance network of Gypsy and Sekler (székely) entertainers from Transylvania.[5]

The Great Channel of Singapore (expedition’s photo).
Source: Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.
Singaporean streets (expedition’s photo)
Source: Hungarian Museum of Ethnography.
Chinese sampans (engraving based on expedition’s photo).
Source: Khinai sámpánok. (Xántus leveléhez) Hazánk s a Külföld, 6(10): 149.

In a wider historical context, the expedition of Xántus not only tells us much about how Hungarian geographical knowledge production was embedded in global colonialism, but also demonstrates the shift from reproducing dominantly Western geographic images of Asia towards developing an expansionist Hungarian Orientalism and Eurasian geopolitical vision between the late 19th and the mid-20th centuries. The newer generation of expeditions, such as by Benedek Baráthosi Balogh, Béla Széchenyi, Lajos Lóczy, Jenő Cholnoky, János Kovrig, or Viktor Keöpe, increasingly imagined Asia within a Turanist vision, an overarching geographical-cultural ideology of Hungarian-Asian racial brotherhood, which served as a semiperipheral imperialist globalisation strategy to counter or bypass Habsburg dependency and Western imperialism.

Xántus, through his popular figure as a prolific field-working scientist and a “national hero” who fought against the Habsburgs in 1848, was among the few “bourgeois” explorers to be early rehabilitated in the Communist era, since Habsburg rule was interpreted as a form of colonialism, and this history facilitated relations with decolonising Afro-Asian countries after WWII. But even today, discussion of Hungarian explorers’ colonialist and racist attitudes are absent from national collective memory, and as recent Chinese expansion with the New Silk Road and One Belt One Road macroprojects has reignited the Hungarian Orientalist heritage in culture and foreign policy, perhaps it is timely to re-evaluate the colonial history of Hungarian relations to Asia.

The shack of János Xántus in Borneo (his own drawing).
Source: Gyarmati, J. (2019): Xántus János, a gyűjtő. Honismeret, 47(6): 8–15.
The East Asian collection at the exhibition of the National Museum. Source: Hazánk s a Külföld, 1871, 225.

[1] Ginelli, Z. (forthcoming): Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans. Manuscript.

[2] This paper also builds on the Xántus collection organized by the research project of János Gyarmati, “The Austro-Hungarian East Asia Expedition and the Collection of János Xántus”.

[3] Xántus, J. (1880): Borneo szigetén 1870-ben tett utazásomról. Földrajzi Közlemények, 8: 153–219. p. 156.

[4] Xántus, J. (1879): Uti emlékeim Singapoore és vidékéről. Győr: Özv. Bauervein Gézáné. p. 35–36.

[5] Ibid, p. 86–92.

Read a previous description of this project here.

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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2020): Opening Hungary to Global Colonialism: János Xántus and Hungarian Orientalism in East and Southeast Asia. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.03.07. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2020/03/07/opening-hungary-to-global-colonialism-janos-xantus-and-hungarian-orientalism-in-east-and-southeast-asia

Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism in Global Colonialism

Alexander Ritter von Bensa the Younger/Adolf Obermüller: North Camp at Mostar during the Bosnian campaign, 1878
Heeresgeschichtliches MuseumMuseum of Military History

In postcolonial studies, Eastern Europe’s colonial experiences and ambitions have been routinely silenced in the literature’s focus on (post)colonial centres and peripheries. The region remains largely absent from mainstream textbooks, which is indicative not only of Western academics’ ignorance and knowledge imperialism, but also of Eastern European authors’ relative neglect or inability to contribute. In Hungarian history, the country has been routinely positioned as colonized victim without any significant colonizer role in global history. Recently, this argument has been forcefully taken up by the (far) right-wing government’s political discourse, which has mobilized decolonial arguments to critique “Western imperialists”, while nationalism has sparked nostalgia towards Hungarian imperial “high times” and reignited racism towards the global periphery.

In postcolonial literature on Eastern Europe, the relationship between the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Balkans is a relatively well-developed context. Nevertheless, Austria’s participation in global colonialism has been recurrently denied by expanding on the country’s neutral role during and after WWII, which was opportunistically used to develop good relations with the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition, the recent focus on Austrian colonialism has left Hungarian colonial activities and ambitions as part of the Empire unexplored. During the socialist era, the narrative of Habsburg colonialism – following anti-German sentiment – was used to position Hungary as part of the colonized world during Afro-Asian decolonization, but Hungarian historical participation in colonialist and imperialist projects, such as towards the Balkans, have been simultaneously de-emphasized. These silences still produce huge biases in current Hungarian attitudes, politics, and historical memory. In recent years, Hungarian scholars have been producing detailed accounts of the imperialist ambitions of the Hungarian Kingdom towards the Balkans, but only in Hungarian (or perhaps German), and these remained rather descriptive and unreflective of postcolonial epistemology or global structural analysis.

This paper interprets Hungarian Balkanism in a global historical and world-systemic perspective as part of global colonialism. It argues that the literature’s uneasiness of applying postcolonialism to the region relies on a false fixation on the hegemonic Western-Atlantic concept of global colonial history, which may be resolved by acknowledging the transnational nature of colonialism and examining Eastern Europe’s in-between semiperipheral position in the capitalist world-system and in global colonial history. The paper aims to critique the constructivist and relational postcolonial epistemology of Balkanism (varieties of Orientalism), and the various Eastern European typologies (“continental”, “internal”, “semi-“, “small” imperialism/colonialism) and geographical biases in postcolonial studies, to look at how Hungarian colonialism towards the Balkans from the mid-19th century served in world-systemic linking-delinking strategies, and in relieving structural dependencies. Finally, it looks at the discursive continuities of Balkanism as a form of semiperipheral imperialism: how the government’s nationalist identity politics and global maneuvering (“Eastern Opening”) affected Hungarian Balkanists’ public nostalgia for the imperial “boom era” and their contested relations to Islam.

Turkish President Reccep Erdoğan praying at the Tomb of Gül Baba in Budapest during his visit in 2018. Source: Turkish Presidency / Murat Cetin/Anadolu Agency / 444.hu
Studying the Balkans Globally Workshop 
Department of Politics Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK) Belgrade – Belgrade, 3 April 2020

See a previous version of this project here.

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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2020): Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism in Global Colonialism. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.02.29. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2020/02/29/semiperipheral-empire-hungarian-balkanism-in-global-colonialism

Critical Human Geography in Hungary? Structural Dependencies and Knowledge Circulation in a Semiperipheral Context

Képtalálat a következőre: „fence hungary”

Knowledge filtration under structural constraints
(Source: https://www.middleeasteye.net)

Book chapter proposal for Political Ecology in Eastern Europe, edited by Eszter Krasznai Kovács

This chapter provides a critical overview of how Hungarian human geography developed since 1989, by showing the long-term continuities and structural shifts in local intellectual positions and knowledge epistemologies from a world-systemic perspective, reflecting on how structural dependencies have shaped local knowledge production strategies and disciplinary identity politics in a semiperipheral context. This account offers a perspective on how institutional settings and narrative networks developed according to the various rounds of Hungarian geographers’ semiperipheral integration and re-integration into hegemonic knowledge structures from the late socialist era to neoliberal “return to Europe” and European Union accession, until today’s post-2010 authoritarianism and “global opening”.

In this context, this chapter focuses on how “critical geography” in Hungary was defined and why has its formulation ultimately failed? Can we identify “critical geography” at all compared to its original Western conception? What might be the challenges for any “critical geography” after the 2008 crisis and the authoritarian “illiberal” turn since 2010? These questions are explored through insights from the history and sociology of scientific knowledge, including epistemic strategies of academic provincialism, connectivity, entitlement and gatekeeping. The literature on the geographies of knowledge elucidates the selective circulation, inclusion/exclusion dynamics and local interpretation of Western approaches to human geography, in order to understand how they got positioned and translated into local knowledge interests with very different social and political functions in a semiperipheral structural context. The chapter points out that Hungarian authors either completely dismissed or unreflectively reproduced the Anglo-American postpositivist canon through narrative and epistemological dependency, evading critical self-reflection, historically contextualized and comparative engagement with Anglo-American and Hungarian geography in the “knowledge transfer” of “catching up” to the West.

Meanwhile, amidst the global rise of conservative nationalist authoritarianism, recent Hungarian government attacks against leftism, liberalism, Marxism, feminism and gender studies, race studies, the “1968 generation” and the 1989–2010 liberal period have complicated the interpretive context of West-imported “critical geographies”. The “illiberal” Christian-nationalist Kulturkampf revived geopolitics and global historical approaches (e.g. turn to Asia), while mischievously appropriated postpositivist criticism, postmodernist representational and identity politics, and postcolonial or decolonial ideas as molded into nationalist victimization, anti-Western or anti-EU rhetoric, civilizational exceptionalism and color-blind racism. This chapter aims to critically reflect on how East-West knowledge dependencies in geography constrain meaningful criticism of these processes, and argue for re-evaluating Hungarian “critical geography” based on a historically and geographically self-reflexive world-systemic engagement with the (de)colonization and self-colonization of geographical knowledge.

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Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2019): Critical Human Geography in Hungary? Structural Dependencies and Knowledge Circulation in a Semiperipheral Context. Critical Geographies Blog. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/07/24/critical-human-geography-in-hungary-structural-dependencies-and-knowledge-circulation-in-a-semiperipheral-context

Socialist Worlds on Screen: Beyond Black and White

poster_EN_finalA2-(comp)

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).

Historicizing “Whiteness” in Eastern Europe and Russia

whiteness-conference-logo-(comp)

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

Download in .pdf  Adobe-PDF-Document-icon

 

Tuesday, June 25

9.15–9.30 – Welcome remarks

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

10.45–11.00 – Coffee break

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

Chair/Discussant: Steffi Marung (University of Leipzig)

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

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

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

12.45–14.15 – Lunch

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

Chair/Discussant: Agnieszka Kościańska (University of Warsaw)

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

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

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

16.00–16.15 – Coffee break

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, June 26

9.30–11.10 – Eastern European Whiteness in Global Perspective

Chair/Discussant: Monika Bobako (Adam Mickiewicz University)

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

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

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

11.15–11.30 – Coffee break

11.30–13.10 – Socialism as Ambivalent Whiteness

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

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

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

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

13.10–14.40 – Lunch

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

Chair/Discussant: Ivan Kalmar (University of Toronto)

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

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

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

16.25–16.40 – Break

16.40–17.15 – Concluding roundtable

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

Új blogsorozat: Magyarország és a gyarmati világ / New blog series: Hungary and the colonial world

A bevett olvasat szerint nekünk soha nem voltak gyarmataink, sosem vettünk részt a gyarmatosításban, ezért semmi közünk nincsen a (poszt)gyarmati világhoz. De valóban így lenne? Új blogsorozatom ezt a témát igyekszik körüljárni! Hogyan kapcsolódott Magyarország a gyarmatosításhoz, a gyarmatbirodalmi rendszerhez és a gyarmati diskurzushoz? Milyen módokon fogalmazták meg a gyarmatiság kérdését és problémáját magyar tudósok, írók és politikusok? Hogyan termelték, mutatták be és hogyan fogyasztotta a magyar közönség a kolonializmusról és a gyarmati világról szóló földrajzi tudást? Hányféleképpen értelmezhetjük a gyarmat és a gyarmatosítás fogalmait magyar és kelet(közép-)európai szempontból? Vajon hogyan tekinthetünk a magyar történelemre és társadalomra másképpen a gyarmati viszonyok vizsgálata szempontjából? A bejegyzések a magyar földrajzi tudástermelés (poszt)koloniális viszonyait feltáró kutatásaimat követik kritikai geográfus szemmel, várhatóan magyar és angol nyelvű olvasók számára is!

Kövessed és oszd meg a bejegyzéseket Facebookon a Magyar Kritikai Geográfusok Fórumán!


– ENGLISH VERSION –

According to the dominant narrative, we Hungarians never had colonies, we never participated in colonization, and so we have nothing to do with the (post)colonial world. But is this so? My new blog series aims to cover this topic! How did Hungary relate to colonization, the imperial colonialist system, and colonial discourse? In what ways was the colonial question problematized and discussed by Hungarian scholars, writers and politicians? How was geographical knowledge about colonialism and the colonial world produced, presented and consumed by the Hungarian public? How can we conceptualize the terms colony and colonialism from a Hungarian and Eastern (Central) European perspective? In what multiple ways can we understand Hungarian history and society differently in light of colonial relations? The blog posts will follow my research on the (post)colonial relations of Hungarian geographical knowledge production from a critical geographical view, hopefully coming to both Hungarian and English readers!

Check out and share the posts on Facebook on the Forum for Hungarian Critical Geographers!

The geography of the Nazi deportation of Jews and other ethnicities in Eastern Europe

Die_'großzügigste_Umsiedlungsaktion'_with_Poland_superimposed,_1939.jpg

Nazi propaganda poster of the Third Reich in 1939 (dark grey) after the conquest of Poland. It depicts pockets of German colonists resettling into Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany from Soviet controlled territories during the “Heim ins Reich” action. The outline of Poland (here superimposed in red) was missing from the original poster. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalplan_Ost

“The further east the Jewish communities were located the shorter was their path to the place of annihilation. Within the Soviet Union where the Jewish communities were hardly organized effectively within a ghetto, the Jewish population was usually summoned by the SS men and executed near the town where they were concentrated. In Poland where the ghettos and Jewish self-government had existed for several years, the Germans took precautions not to annoy the Jews by the executions in the vicinity of the towns but disposed of them in secret and distant extermination camps. In this way the Germans could secure initially the cooperation of the Jewish Councils which readily supplied the requested quotas “for resettlement and work in the East” from the overpopulated, starved, and disease-ridden ghettos.

The Nazis went to greater pains to preserve the appearance of “enlistment for work” in other countries under their occupation and especially in their satellites. In some cases there were regular contracts offered to the semi-independent governments which provided for the delivery of Jews for the “work in the German East” and these even included a clause for eventual return if the governments concerned wanted them back. The “enlisted” Jews were then transported eastward, sometimes as far as Riga and Minsk, but usually to the closer extermination camps in Poland. Sometimes to show off Germany as a “cultured nation,” the Nazis transported the Western Jews in luxurious pullman trains and supplied them with fancy camping equipment (like tents and field-kitchens) which, of course, were taken away at the place of destination.”

Kamenetsky, Ihor (1961): Secret Nazi Plans for Eastern Europe. New York: Bookman Associates. 168–169.

Plotting the semiperipheral empire: Hungarian imperialist imaginaries of Balkan landscapes, 1867–1948

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. To be sure, postcolonial literature extended Orientalism as the Western construction of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and reinterpreted postcolonialism in relation to Soviet imperialism, postsocialism, Eastern Europe’s role in decolonization and socialist globalization. However, the imperialist or colonialist ambitions of Eastern or East Central Europe seem to go against the grain, since concerning countries were themselves often colonized and rarely or never held any colonies. In contrast, Hungarian geographical knowledge production from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries related to the Balkans is a demonstrative case study of what I call Eastern European semiperipheral imperialism. Hungarian imperialist ambitions emerged 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 a defensive revisionism, this only replenished arguments for Hungarian civilizational superiority in the region. Hungary’s “in-between” position constructed a complex and ambivalent imperialist-nationalist discourse operating on various intertwined scales. The Carpathian Basin was envisioned as the scene of a “civilizing mission” by the superior Hungarian culture 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 landscape of the Alföld basin was geographically co-constructed in relation to the Balkan “Other”, while imperialist visions of cultural expansion and economic modernization in the Balkans were naturalized through the concept of landscape: transforming the “wild” Karst and opening to “the Hungarian sea”.

The Ghana Job: Opening Socialist Hungary to the “Developing World”

ghana-job-cover

17 April 5:30 PM

Rutgers_University_with_the_state_university_logo.svgSeminar Room
Department of Sociology
Rutgers University
26 Nichol Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

facebook event

Why was Hungary interested in the decolonized “developing world”? What does this episode of Eastern European history tell us about shared postcolonialities, transnational interconnectivity, and semiperipheral positioning or development strategies? My talk introduces why and how socialist Hungary decided to develop foreign economic relations with decolonized countries, which in turn facilitated a new orientation towards the world and the emergence of Hungarian development expertise towards developing countries.

My study investigates the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (CAAR) founded at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1963 (in 1973 renamed as the Institute for World Economy, IWE) parallel to similar institutions founded internationally at that time. CAAR was established as a government think tank by József Bognár, who was a close friend to Prime Minister János Kádár and a hugely important figure in socialist era Hungarian reform economics and foreign economic policy-making. The associates of CAAR and IWE promoted export-oriented growth and fabricated new geographical development concepts as alternatives to the dichotomous Cold War categories of “capitalist” and “socialist” worlds in order to reposition Hungary in the world economy. The institute evolved out of the “Ghana job”: during his Eastern European round-trip president Kwame Nkrumah asked Bognár and his team of economists to develop the First Seven-Year Plan of Ghana in 1962.

During the Nkrumah period, the pan-Africanist, African socialist and Non-Aligned country of Ghana became a transnational hub of various experts and intellectuals, and a contested site not only of conflicting and intertwined “socialist” and “capitalist” views on development, but also of intensive cooperation and competition between Eastern Bloc countries in asserting their influence in the decolonized world. With Bognár’s assignment, the issue of “poorly developed countries” ignited the comparative reconceptualization of development histories in Hungary and led to exporting the Hungarian development model to the “Third World” based on the discourse of anti-imperialism, socialist solidarity and shared postcolonial histories.

In this context, I interpret the “Ghana job” from a postcolonial and world-systemic perspective as situated in a complex web of transnational relations, and point out Ghana’s decisive role in opening semiperipheral Hungary towards the global periphery during the 1960s by generating a field of development expertise, which enabled entrance into a new market of transnational development consultancy.

Download flyer (.pdf).

This research received support from the “NKFIH K No. 115870” project entitled “Contemporary theories of space and spatiality in the Central Eastern European context” (“Kortárs térelméletek közép-kelet-európai kontextusban”) funded by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NRDIO) in Hungary.

Tracing the Global History of the Quantitative Revolution: The Transnational History of Central Place Theory

christaller_cpt2

Zoltán Ginelli

Book Plan

The quantitative revolution has been an epochal textbook chapter in geography’s canonical history, marking a time when the discipline transformed into a rigorous social science backed by predictive mathematical methods in the early Cold War. An iconic scientific concept of this quantitative movement, most notably related to Walter Christaller (1933) and August Lösch (1939), was central place theory (CPT), which postulated a triangular-hexagonal structure of hierarchical settlement systems based on marginalist economics and behaviourist assumptions. It was a foundational theory for the emerging field of spatial analysis, including regional science (Isard, 1956) and regional or urban economics. With the intensive globalization of the quantitative revolution after its emergence from the Second World War in the United States (Barnes and Farish 2006), location theories such as CPT became very influential and widespread in urban and regional planning across the entire world. But in the West, vigorous efforts to criticise spatial science from the 1970s onwards (e.g. Gregory, 1978) developed a revisionist narrative that stressed the influence of positivism, rationalism, technocratism, and Cold War American hegemony. This ultimately added to the already reduced view of actual historical events (Livingstone, 1992; cf. Van Meeteren, forthcoming), while recent research has only begun to unravel the variegated geographical contexts of the quantitative revolution (e.g. Barnes, 2003). Reflecting on its initial North American centres, Barnes (2002, 508) passingly remarked: “Why are places in Africa not on there, or Asia, or Australasia?” Following Barnes’s plea for a more wider interpretation, we attempt to pose a number of questions. How did quantitative spatial analysis and planning develop in different parts of the world? In what different geographical contexts were location theories like CPT read, reinterpreted, applied, and mobilized? How were these often very different contexts connected?

This volume offers to fill this significant gap in geography’s twentieth century global history by following a transnational framework based on the historical geographies of scientific knowledge (Livingstone, 2003; Withers, 2007). It aims to deconstruct the mainstream Anglo-American narrative by tracing the quantitative revolution through the circulation and local applications of CPT in the “Second” and “Third” worlds and also into the pre-Cold War era (Ginelli 2018; Ginelli, in preparation). CPT was abstracted and canonized pragmatically by American-led spatial science despite originating from a much wider and more complex European interwar discourse than commonly appreciated (Radeff, 2012; Van Meeteren and Poorthuis, 2018). Antecedents reached into late 18th and 19th century ideas by German, French, and Swiss political economists, engineers, mathematicians, and geographers (Istel, 2002), and the so-called Garden City Movement across Europe (Fehl, 1992). The discussion of location theories grew rapidly in interwar Europe, as the Great Depression (192933) and world economic crisis ignited state-led interventionism and technocratism, which was embedded in a transnational discourse of rationalizing reforms by emerging administration science and regional planning, the application of functionalist and modernist ideas, Fordist-Taylorist development, mathematical economics, and long-term planning that disregarded ideological barriers. During the Second World War, CPT was intensively applied by Christaller under the “reactionary modernist” Nazi regime to plan the colonization and German resettlement of Poland by the Third Reich (Generalplan Ost) (e.g. Rössler, 1989; Preston, 2009; Barnes and Minca, 2013). Notable early applications included Estonia (Kant, 1935), the Nordoostpolder settlements in the Netherlands in the 1940s (Bosma 1993), the new settlements of expanding Israel in the mid-1950s (Trezib, 2014), research and application in regional planning in Britain (e.g. Dickinson, 1942; Smailes, 1944), introduction to the USA (Ullman, 1941; Brush, 1953; Berry & Garrison, 1958), and the regional planning of Sweden (e.g. Godlund, 1951). The yet weak American, British, and Canadian network of the quantitative movement was supported by the Swedish hub in Lund, which was also important in disseminating the application of location theories into Scandinavia and other parts of Europe in the 1960s (Barnes and Abrahamsson, 2017; Van Meeteren, in preparation). The Anglo-American impulse traversed easily into other Anglophone contexts such as Australia and New Zealand (e.g. Duncan 1955), and reached France through Canada in Francophone networks (Cuyala, 2015), while it helped legitimize the German reinvigoration of CPT in the 1960s in face of its wartime burden (Kegler, 2015).

These mostly North Atlantic and Western, Central, and Northern European cases were followed by parallel developments and were increasingly connected into a global network despite Cold War ideological tensions, especially through international organizations such as the International Geographical Union and urban or regional planning organizations. The globalization of CPT under American Cold War hegemony from the early 1960s led to the Americanization of German location theories in an economistic modernization discourse, supported by USAID, United Nations, and World Bank projects. CPT became an important instrument of state-interventionist modernization and urbanization policies in the “planning laboratories” of the Global South, embedded in existing and emerging postcolonial knowledge networks devised by important centres of the quantitative revolution (Ginelli, in preparation). Early applications in India were followed by various others in South East Asia, West Asia (Clark & Costello 1973), and also East Asia (Ullman 1956), such as China (Skinner, 1964) and Japan (Hayashi, 1973). New statistical surveys and development projects made possible mostly American or British initiatives of applying CPT in African countries, such as Ghana (Grove & Huszár, 1964; Gould; McNulty 1969), Nigeria (Mabogunje, 1968), Kenya (Soja, 1968), South Africa (Carol, 1952; Davies, 1967) amongst many others. In South America, development projects in Peru, Chile (Berry, 1969), Colombia, or Bolivia also applied CPT, and the quantitative revolution spread through modernizing regimes as the case of Brazil suggests (Lamego, 2015; 2016). A number of comparative and critical works of applying CPT in the Global South appeared (e.g. Kuklinski 1978). In the socialist world, after the Stalinist purge of internationally renowned mathematical economics during the 1930s and 1950s, there developed a parallel “mathematical thrust” and growing East-West exchange during the détente of the 1960s (Jensen & Karaska, 1969; Saushkin, 1971). Soviet and Eastern Bloc reformism and the institutionalization of urban and regional planning in the mid-1950s summoned CPT in the service of centralized and long-term state planning, which ignited debates of adaptability between “socialist” and “capitalist” contexts, and also between domestic industrial or welfare policies (Ginelli, forthcoming). CPT strongly influenced the national urban and regional planning concepts of Eastern European countries, where it was already well known, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania (e.g. Perczel & Gerle, 1966; Vrišer, 1971). Apart from diffusing through Comecon plan coordination, socialist planning discourse borrowed from a transnational pool of knowledge. Quite remarkably, the seemingly “neutral” mathematical-geometrical language of CPT and the political demand for national development plans interweaved “socialist” and “capitalist” contexts, which held important continuities into the postsocialist era (Ginelli, forthcoming; in preparation). With the “new economic geography” emerging in the 1990s, the already developed canon of location theories such as CPT were solidified in neoclassical economics and neoliberal policies connected to a new regionalism.

Drawing on a number of such case studies, this book project aims to connect, contest, and contribute to various fields in the history of scientific knowledge. First of all, it explores the global histories of geography, regional science, urban studies, economics, and related fields in a period marked by geopolitical transitions such as the Second World War, decolonization, and the end of the Cold War. Arguing for a global discourse of CPT, this book contests current disciplinary accounts by re-addressing issues of narrativity, historical periodization, and geographical foci. It aims to broaden the fields of intellectual history and the sociology of science by connecting to the approach of science and technology studies to trace the spatial biographies of various actors, including people, ideas, theories, data, practices, technologies, or capital (e.g. Daston 2000). The yet unwritten transnational history of CPT and spatial analysis fits into the burgeoning literature on the transnational histories of Cold War technosciences, such as mathematical economics, statistical analysis, cybernetics, ekistics, systems theory, linear programming, game theory, or diffusion analysis (e.g. Andersson & Rindzeviciute 2015). This volume also contributes to the growing studies of architectural history and policy mobilities, and the history of urban and regional planning with the aim to rethink postwar planning history (Ward, 2010; Wakeman 2014). On a further account, the book reveals the uneven power relations in global knowledge production and thereby adds to postcolonial and decolonial studies by decentering dominant Anglo-American knowledge production by focusing on interconnectivity and peripheralized contexts.

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