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 1960s 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

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

“Third way” development politics and culture war in Hungary after 1945

Check out our panel at the ASEEES Summer Convention in Zagreb in 14-16 June 2019, to be held at the Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesUniversity of Zagreb.

Organizer: Zoltán Ginelli

How did Hungarian politics, in the name of “catching up” to the West, construct visions of development amidst structural change and global (re)integration, and how did these spark “culture war” and affect cultural solidarity and exchange? How did the idea of a “third way” political economic development in Hungary generate alternative and competing visions of cultural solidarity and alignment? How can we conceptualize these intertwined structural and discursive processes in Hungary by considering transnational and centre-periphery relations on various geographical scales? Our panel aims to address these questions by empirically exploring the role and relationship of intellectual experts and the state in Hungary after 1945, how their networks (re)organized along new alliances and conflicts due to wider political economic and discursive shifts.

The panel focuses on three main aspects. First, how state representatives, reformist intellectuals and ideologues tried to construct an alternative “third way” development politics in reaction to global restructuration and as a maneuver between East and West to reposition Hungary and Eastern (Central) Europe. Second, the “third way” is also a contested epistemological field in the analysis of the Hungarian path of semiperipheral development between accepted Western dichotomies (such as neoliberalism and authoritarianism, state and market, socialism and capitalism, East and West). Finally, the panel seeks connections between political economic shifts and cultural rearrangements, how new cultural politics were formed and how new forms of cultural solidarity or distinction evolved regarding space, class and race.

Keywords: Hungary, culture war, post-WWII period, third way development, intellectuals

  

SESSION 1

Chair: Gábor Danyi

Discussant: Stefano Bottoni

Anti-Germanism, and the definition of „New Hungary” 1945-46 – A special brand of „third world nationalism”?

Csaba Tóth

1945 was described at the time as a revolution and later as simply a „turning point” or „year zero” in the case of Soviet occupied Eastern European countries. As in Czechoslovakia or Poland, anti-German sentiments defined the first explanations of what happened and how to go forward in Hungary immediately after the Second World War. Those who then gained power were tasked with a difficult objective: reorganizing not only the state and its apparatus, but offer a new, credible identity to the people of Hungary itself. My presentation argues that they did so, mainly by importing anti-colonial sentiments, and trying to utilize them in a way that would legitimize Soviet occupation and the new regime as one that liberates Hungary from centuries of German domination. (Szekfű 1947; Révai 1948.) This interpretation invoked an early form of third world post-colonial sentiment known at the time from Indian and Chinese anti-colonial powers. Stalin himself oftentimes emphasized the pivotal importance of “national front struggles” against imperialism in China and India (Radchenko 2012) and this view and approach was strikingly similar to the Soviet Politburo’s standpoint on Hungarian and more generally, Eastern European struggles against Fascism and German domination. This approach had an effect on Hungary on the official level: not only in the form of the creation of a first and foremost nationalist “popular front” in 1944, and the definition of independence as “liberation”, but also on the focus on the expulsion of ethnic Germans, the rhetoric against Germans and “pro-Germans” (made similar to “Fascists”) during the first post-war years. Following previous ideas of “ethnic symbolism” (D. Smith 1987.) and ethnic myths as a nation-building historical force and the recognized effect decolonization made on Eastern European Consciousness as well as criticism of the established geographical restrictions on post-colonial studies (Owczarzak 2009; Spivak 1999) my study argues that a special kind of “Third Worldism”, anti-imperialism, and anti-colonialism is essential to understand the origins of post-1945 Hungarian “democratic” nationalism, prevalent to these days.

 

Geographical narratives as key elements of the culture war in Hungary

Péter Balogh

This contribution will show how a number of historically deeply rooted but competing geographical narratives exist in Hungary, which orient the country towards different geographic and ideational directions. Indeed, the gradual demise of consensus politics, which focused on European/transatlantic integration and market economy, has by the turn of the millennium given way to a culture war of some sort in several countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Trencsényi 2014). Yet despite being a small and ethnically relatively homogenous country, according to Janke (2013: 56) for instance Hungary appears more divided along ideological and geographical lines than e.g. Poland. Hungary is burdened by the conflict between the folkish and urbanite traditions, for instance, which goes back to at least the interwar period (Trencsényi 2014: 139). The notion of ‘Central Europe’ served pro-European aims and integration with the West in the 1980s and 1990s (Balogh 2017). There is a centuries-old image of the ‘Christian bulwark’ (Száraz 2012) against Muslims etc., recently mobilized during and after the 2015 refugee crisis. There is also a completely competing Turanian tradition since at least the beginning of the past century that emphasizes the Asiatic and Turkic roots of ancient Hungarians, and which was then as is nowadays deployed for hoped commercial and political benefits in Asia (Balogh 2015). It is argued that these narratives are both geographically and ideologically irreconcilable and form essential elements of the Hungarian culture war(s).

 

Post/colonial Hungary: Opening socialist Hungary to the “Third World”

Zoltán Ginelli 

Eastern Europe is the “black sheep” of postcolonial studies, which focuses either on the global centre or the periphery, but silences Hungary’s complex historical relations and experiences to coloniality, colonialism and imperialism. This paper introduces the historical project of “post/colonial Hungary” in order to conceptualize Hungarian post/colonialities in semiperipheral development relations. This new approach criticizes constructivist approaches to postcolonialism in Eastern Europe by “speaking back” from the Hungarian semiperiphery and unearthing the forgotten density of local historical contexts and epistemological trajectories. The paper focuses on the post-1945 global realignment of Hungarian foreign policy, namely how Hungary’s turn towards Afro-Asian decolonization and the “Third World” induced a “cultural war” intertwined with visions for “third way” development under state-socialism, drawing parallels between postcolonial and Hungarian development history. Anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist solidarity contested previous civilizational and racial fault lines, but went hand-in-hand with the socialist civilizing mission in development assistance and pragmatic foreign economic maneuvering between East and West. Hungarian assistance to Non-Aligned Ghana led to founding the Centre for Afro-Asian Research (1963) under the economist József Bognár, who propagated export-oriented growth based on development experiences in postcolonial countries under the New Economic Mechanism. From the 1980s, the pro-West “back to Europe” turn and postsocialist market-liberal transition in Hungary silenced these historical relations with the postcolonial global periphery. Finally, the paper offers new insights into how a new “coloniality discourse” was based on complex historical experiences and appropriating postcolonial critique in the geopolitical maneuvering and “cultural war” of Viktor Orbán’s government after 2010.

 

SESSION 2

Chair: Péter Balogh

Discussant: Stefano Bottoni

The Prosecution of the Central Eastern European Neomarxist Opposition

Richárd Zima

The paper deals with the philosophers’ groups, which represented the Marxist alternative of the state socialist ideology and created the leftist opposition in countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Most of these philosophers participated in the 1956 and 1968 movements, and in some cases, influenced them. Their philosophical and sociological research pointed out the real nature of state socialism. On that basis, their common aim was to find the ‘tertium datur’, the third way in opposition to the capitalist and the state-socialist order. The theoretic prosperity of the ‘60s ended with the prosecution of these groups as they fell victim to the cultural war initiated by their governments. This paper aims to provide insights into the intelligentsia’s prosecution caused by their critical description of the state socialism and, as a result of their attempt to seek alternatives, into the similarities and differences between their Neomarxist theories of the ideal society. The dissolution of this theoretical wave was a result of the political response to the aftermath of the Eastern European movements of 1968 as well as the dynamics of Soviet and world politics at the time. The differences among the processes of prosecution in the aforementioned countries will lead us to a deeper understanding of this Neomarxist opposition’s place in the complexity of Marxism itself. This would lead me to briefly introduce the rise of a new form (and generation) of leftist oppositional thought at the late ‘70s, which turned out to be less and less Marxist.

 

Transnational “Solidarity” in Poland and Hungary

Gábor Danyi

From the 1970s onwards, the transnational diffusion of ideas, techniques and strategies has helped to develop simultaneously the dissident movements in the Soviet-bloc countries. At this time the Hungarian democratic opposition from the establishment of the Polish Workers’ Defence Committee (KOR) sought contact with the Polish opposition. As a consequence the knowledge of alternative printing and the strategies of legalism, conspiring and non-violence were transmitted to small dissident circles in Hungary and under the influence of „new evolutionism” Hungarian intellectuals created parallel institutions, such as a flying university, legal aid service or alternative publishing houses. The tightening unofficial contacts between dissidents led to the emergence of a transnational dimension of solidarity in the bloc. However, it must be acknowledged that the very limited import of Solidarity movement in Hungary resulted in an asymmetry between these countries regarding the extension and patterns of cultural resistance and opposition. The paper interprets the new dissident practices and parallel institutions emerging in the 1980s in terms of “culture war” as far as they helped to form diametrically opposed ways of political and economic programs, geopolitical imagination and collective memory. Focusing on the history of Hungary and Poland the paper analyzes structural differences of the opposition movements and highlights the patterns of transnational/global solidarity.

 

German and American Political Assistance in Hungary: Western Development Models, Cultural Politics, and the Crises of Democratic Capitalism

Kyle Shybunko

When German political foundations and American “democracy promotion” outfits such as AID and the National Endowment for Democracy arrived in Budapest to help build a liberal democracy, they arrived in a country that was undergoing rapid political and constitutional change after years of party dictatorship. The chief tasks at hand were the democratization of politics, the promotion of an independent civil society, and the establishment of a market economy. Hungary would be returned to Europe. They also arrived in a society with a history of kulturkampf dating to the late 19th century when Hungarian liberals and Catholic nationalists spoke of a war for Hungary’s sovereignty fought on the terrain of culture, ethnicity and confession. Hungary’s new pluralistic politics was implicated by a revived version of this “culture war” which, like both its fin-de-siècle and interwar versions, was fundamentally tied to competing ideas of Europe and Hungary’s European-ness. How did these West German and American organizations navigate this Hungarian landscape which was otherwise understood to be the most promising and fertile in the New Europe with its rich tradition of reform economics? By examining the grant-making practices of these organizations in the 1980s and 1990s I show how funders approximated the political orientation and programs of civic organizations and incipient political parties, and how they understood cultural politics to be epiphenomenal to the urgent work of democratic capitalist transformation, missing in-fact the geopolitical and political-economic valences of these “culture wars” which are only so apparent at the current juncture.

 

The Ghetto as a Mobile Technology: Problematizing Gettósodás/Ghettoization in Budapest’s Eighth District after the Neo-Liberal Turn

Jonathan McCombs

This paper explores the transnational connection between racial regimes in the United States and Hungary to highlight how urban scholars and policy experts have sown racial and cultural divisions through the discursive concept of the ‘the ghetto.’ Inner city areas in the United States in the 1970s saw an increase in the concentration of very low-income, highly segregated black communities. In a bid to make sense of the worsening condition for inner city blacks in the US, scholars began describing these new urban spaces as ‘ghettos’ to account for the strong majority of racialized minorities (over 90%) living in these spaces and the limited life chances that ghetto inhabitants were afforded. Twenty years later, as Hungary underwent its own form of neo-liberalization, the discourse of ghettoization was picked up by scholars and policy makers to describe the conditions of inner-city Budapest districts that had come to be inhabited by a large Roma population and had been badly disinvested during state-socialism. In this presentation I focus on the Eighth District, which has been heavily stigmatized by experts as a ghetto since the early 1990s and has undergone state-led gentrification projects to curb the so-called ghettoization process. I show how the ghetto narrative was articulated in Hungary as a mobile technology of racial government, describing how it inflamed existing racialized divisions, igniting a culture war waged by policy makers and the local Eighth District government against Eighth District residents.

Gyarmati tudást termelő magyar geográfusok

44203332_2096419793744870_8158127041145733120_n
1935-ben a neves geográfus, Kádár László jelentetett meg egy tudományos ismeretterjesztő magazinban, a Búvárban cikket Afrika gyarmatosításának a történetéről. Néhány évvel később a magyar gyarmati tudástermelés az olasz és német gyarmati érdekek propagálása felé fordult, és élesszavú geopolitikusok (mint a németbarát Kalmár Gusztáv) kezdték mérlegelni, hogy Magyarország hogyan tudna ezen hatalmak afrikai térnyerésének farvizén érvényesülni. Ugyanabban az évben Kádár egy másik cikket is írt az olasz gyarmatosításról és Abesszíniáról, amit nemsokára lerohant az olasz hadsereg. Még Kádár viszonylag leíró és mértéktartó elbeszélését, amelyben olykor-olykor felbukkan az afrikai népek szabadságával szembeni halovány szimpátia is, lényegében nagy eurocentrikus narratívák uralják. Minden történelmi eseményt pusztán az európai hatalmak racionális és felvilágosult “döntéseire” vezet vissza, miközben az afrikai népek érdekeit, cselekedeteit és ellenállását elhallgatja. Afrika gyarmatiság előtti történelmét félreteszi, és az európaiak késői területi gyarmatosítását (a 19. század végétől) mindössze éghajlati és földrajzi tényezőkkel magyarázza, holott a valóságban az európaiak erős ellenállásba ütköztek a felfegyverzett afrikai államok részéről:

“Ennek az oka elsősorban a kontinens felszíne és éghajlata: partjai majdnem kivétel nélkül meredek, magas partok, amelyekre nehéz felkapaszkodni, a folyók is vízesésekkel zuhognak alá közvetlenül a torkolatuk előtt is, és így víziúton sem lehet a szárazföld belsejét megközelíteni. Északon a Szahara széles sivatagja is megközelíthetetlenné teszi az értékes Szudánt. Délen pedig a gyilkos trópusi klíma is erősen hátráltat. Ez magyarázza meg azt, hogy amikor Amerikában és Indiában már virágzó ültetvények voltak, Afrikát csak munkásembert szolgáltató kontinensnek tekintették és tovább nem érdeklődtek iránta.” (681. o.)



– ENGLISH VERSION –


HUNGARIAN GEOGRAPHERS PRODUCING COLONIAL KNOWLEDGE

In 1935, the noted geographer László Kádár published in a popular scientific magazine, Búvár about the history of colonizing Africa. A few years later Hungarian colonial knowledge production turned towards propagating Italian and German colonial interests, with rabid geopoliticians (such as the pro-German Gusztáv Kalmár) calculating how Hungary could follow up on the their promising trajectories in Africa. In the same year, Kádár also wrote another article about Italian colonies and Abyssinia, a country which was soon occupied by the Italian army. Even in Kádár’s rather descriptive and moderately toned account on African colonization, which was sprinkled with traces of distanced sympathy towards African independence, we can see grand Eurocentric narratives unfold. All historical events are simply based on the rational and enlightened “decisions” of European powers, without any account of the interests, actions and resistance of African people. The precolonial African history is sidelined, and the late territorial acquisitions of colonies in the continent (from the late 19th century) is explained by climatic and geographical factors, while Europeans met with the strong resistance of militarized African states:

“The main reason for this is the continent’s relief and climate: its shores are almost exclusively high and steep, which are hard to climb, and rivers plunge down in waterfalls even near the mouth, thus the internal lands cannot be reached through waterways. In the north, the wide desert of the Sahara makes the valuable Sudan inapproachable. In the south, the devastating tropical climate also forms an impediment. This explains that while in America or India there were already blooming plantations, Africa was seen as a continent offering manpower and remained of no further interest.” (p. 681)

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!

Hungarian doctors in the land of the Papuans

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A Papuan village near Kutubu Lake

“Few people know that in the heroic period of discovering Papua New Guinea — apart from Hungarian missionaries — many Hungarian doctors also resided on the island, more concretely on its east side under the governance of Australia. […] During the Second World War, amongst the many fleeing to the West were hundreds of Hungarian doctors. Unfortunately, they could not attain medical jobs, because most countries did not accept their degrees. This was the situation in Australia, where Hungarian doctors could at best work as hospital carers or assistants. But a special situation emerged in the Australian side of Papua New Guinea. During the Pacific war the Japanese occupied the whole area, and the Europeans fled, together with them all doctors. After the war only very few were venturesome enough to return to the dauntingly miserable conditions, therefore on the 462.000 square kilometers area of Papua New Guinea the 2,5 million indigenous inhabitants were left without any reasonable medical care. In the end of the 1940s, Australian authorities decided to permit refugee doctors from Hungary and other foreign countries to professional activities in New Guinea. […] Altogether 15 Hungarian doctors went to New Guinea in the early 1950s. Not all of them could accustom themselves to the harsh conditions, and after a shorter or longer period these returned to Australia. However, 7 of them committed themselves to the sacrificing mission and the majority spent 20–22 years amongst the Papuans.” (Kászoni 1990: 58, 61)

papua-new-guinea-hungarian-doctors.jpgThe working districts of Hungarian doctors: 1. Dr. András Becker; 2. Dr. Károly Haszler; 3. Dr. János Loschdorfer; 4. Dr. Károly Mészáros; 5. Dr. Lajos Róth; 6. Dr. Alajos Szymicsek; 7. Dr. Ferenc Tuza.

Kászoni, Dénes (1990): Magyar orvosok a pápuák földjén. Földrajzi Múzeumi Tanulmányok, 8: 58–61.