Fantom a múltból: Mendöl Tibor „Bevezetés a földrajzba” újra kiadott tankönyvének posztszocialista ellentmondásai

Ez ez előadás egy prominens magyar geográfus eredetileg az 1950-es években írt tankönyvének posztszocialista időszakbeli újrakiadásának körülményeit tárja fel, és a magyar posztszocialista geográfia „nagy történeti hézagának” ellentmondásos narratíváiban értelmezi. Mendöl Tibor „Bevezetés a földrajzba” című egyetemi jegyzete egy kettős narratívában íródott hibrid szöveg: egyfelől az előző konzervatív-nacionalista rezsim hagyományos „felfedezések története” narratívája, másfelől a későbbi szovjetizált rezsim kötelezően átvett marxista-leninista nyelvezete hatja át. 1999-ben a szöveg két rehabilitátorát, Perczel Györgyöt és Probáld Ferencet egészen különböző motivációk vezérelték (mint például egy letűnt, egykor dicsőséges földrajzi hagyományhoz való visszatérés, vagy a diszkreditált szocialista múlt szelektív elfedése), ám mindkét esetben a szerző szimbolikus átértelmezését követték el. Ez végső soron a szöveg önkényes átszerkesztéséhez vezetett, először is a kompromittálónak talált részek kitörlésével, másodszor a mű „teljes” történeti ívének „befejezése” általi újrakeretezésével, harmadszor pedig az ideológiailag terhelt szövegrészek szelektív és nem teljes „lefordításával” egy deideologizált formába. Az előadás célja rétegről rétegre bemutatni a szöveg történeti kontextusait, ugyanis a szövegértelmezési és történeti újraértelmezés nélkül az olvasó úgymond benn ragad Mendöl összeszőtt kettős narratívájának „hermeneutikai csapdájában”. Az előadás utolsó részében a tankönyv dicsőséges „felfedezések története” narratívája és világtörténeti, geopolitikai képzelete mai újraértelmezési lehetőségeit mutatom be a kritikai elmélet anti-eurocentrikus szakirodalmán keresztül.

Phantom of the past: Postsocialist contradictions in Tibor Mendöl’s republished “Introduction to Geography” textbook

This paper aims to unravel the contextual layers of the postsocialist republishing of a prominent Hungarian geographer’s textbook originally written in the 1950s, which is considered here as a vehicle of the contested narrativity in the “big historical gap” of postsocialist Hungarian geography. Tibor Mendöl’s Introduction to Geography was a hybrid text written in a dual narrative: first in a traditional “age of discoveries” narrative of the previous conservative-nationalist regime, and second in the obligatory Marxist-Leninist language of the later Sovietized regime. In 1999, the two rehabilitators of the text, György Perczel and Ferenc Probáld, were driven by different motivations (such as the return to a formerly glorious geographical tradition, or the selective confining of a discredited socialist past), but in both cases through a symbolic contestation of the author. This ultimately led to the arbitrarily reediting of the text, first by deleting its most compromising parts, second by reframing it in a “completed” form by “finishing” its historical span, and third by selectively and incompletely “translating” some of its burdened phrases into a partly de-ideologized language. My aim is to provide a layer-by-layer historical analysis of the text’s contexts, because without a dense hermeneutical and historical reinterpretation, we are entangled in the “hermeneutic trap” of Mendöl’s interwoven dual narrative. The last part of my presentation provides possible reinterpretations of the textbook’s triumphalist “age of discoveries” narrative and world historical, geopolitical imagination in light of the critical theories of anti-Eurocentric literature.

See my publication: Gyimesi, Z. (2014): The Contested Post-Socialist Rehabilitation of the Past: Dual Narratives in the Republishing of Tibor Mendöl’s “Introduction to Geography”. Hungarian Cultural Studies, 7: 242–273. https://ahea.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/ahea/article/view/172

© Zoltán Ginelli

Citation:

Ginelli Z. (2020): Fantom a múltból: Mendöl Tibor „Bevezetés a földrajzba” újrakiadott tankönyvének posztszocialista ellentmondásai. Kritikai Földrajz Blog, 2020.07.18. Link:

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

austria-hungary map

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.

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Ginelli, Z. (2019): Plotting the Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism and Global Colonialism in Geographical Knowledge, 1867–1948. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.03.18. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/03/18/plotting-the-semiperipheral-empire-hungarian-balkanism-and-global-colonialism-in-geographical-knowledge-1867-1948