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.

Reklámok

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

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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Historicizing “Whiteness” in Eastern Europe and Russia

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

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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)

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.

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