Decolonizing the Non-Colonizers? Historicizing Eastern Europe in Global Colonialism

Call for Papers | American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting | Seattle, WA | April 7–11, 2021 | Virtual Session

Convened by Zoltán Ginelli and Jonathan McCombs

What would it mean to ‘decolonize’ Eastern Europe? Recent debates and political struggles around anti-racism and decolonization in the West have spawned reactions of ‘Eastern European exceptionalism’ within the colonial project and the contemporary global racial order. In a region perceived as “never having colonies,” the discourse of colonialism has recently been reimagined on a dividing line along the former Iron Curtain separating ‘colonizer’ and ‘non-colonizer’ countries within Europe. Yet, this discourse, which reaches back to the socialist era and beyond, obscures the role Eastern European countries’ played in both colonial and anti-colonial movements, and downplays their material and ideological interests in the global colonial system. This intriguing geography of converging postsocialist and postcolonialist histories inspires us to question why there is so little discussion about the region’s complex historical relations to global colonialism. We aim to answer by situating Eastern Europe within broader colonial, anti-colonial and decolonial projects, to understand how the region’s historically and geographically shifting relations to coloniality and race inform current political dynamics.

The specific role of Eastern Europe within global capitalism has been conceptualized by an important strand of critical research as occupying a persistent ‘in-between’ or semi-peripheral position within the capitalist world-system (Wallerstein 2004, Böröcz 2009, Boatcă 2010). This longue durée structural continuity of Eastern Europe, despite shifting state formations and governmental logics, forces researchers to grapple with a complex history of often antagonistic roles the region played within capitalist colonialism and racial hierarchies globally (Wimmler and Weber 2020). However, the region is seldom discussed within the global history of colonialism, despite its significant contributions in knowledge, material resources, and peoples to various global colonial ambitions, imperialist trajectories and racial (geo)politics (Mark and Slobodian 2018, Grzechnik 2019, Ginelli forthcoming). The advent of post-WWII Afro-Asian decolonization, the Non-Aligned Movement and socialist internationalism reconfigured previous colonial relations of Eastern Europe. State-socialist Eastern Bloc governments tried to leverage their relatively privileged semiperipheral positions to both aid and exploit Third World decolonization movements, and to both advance and alleviate Soviet influence in the global Cold War (Ginelli 2018, Muehlenbeck and Telepneva 2018, Mark, Kalinovsky and Marung 2020). However, despite their anti-colonialist and anti-racist alliances against the West, communists seldom questioned their own Eurocentrism and remained structurally dependent on unequal trade and Western capital.

The system change beginning in 1989 inaugurated a ‘return to Europe’ as most Eastern Bloc countries integrated into the European Union and hegemonic, West-led neoliberalism (Mark et al. 2019). This has been conceptualized as a neocolonial relation and ‘Thirdworldization’ (Frank 1994), but also a return to ‘whiteness’ and a turn away from former anti-colonial solidarities with the Third World that started already since the late 1970s. After the 2008 economic crisis, these post- and neocolonial relations provided fertile ground for nationalist political parties to win popular support for a political agenda that pits national interest against EU-led, liberal colonialism-imperialism, whilst increasingly authoritarian Eastern European governments turned towards state-centric capital accumulation and clientelistic neoliberal policies (Szombati 2018, Scheiring 2020). These policies only further entrenched Eastern Europe’s economic dependency on Western capital, while politicians continued to wage a ‘culture war’ against perceived Western multiculturalism and a ‘comprador’ left-liberal opposition. The 2015 refugee crisis reanimated government-supported racist civilizational discourses, bordering, discrimination and anti-immigration policies against the former Third World or the (now) Global South. In addition, the presumed “white innocence” (Wekker 2016) of Eastern Europeans within the larger colonial project have helped sustain austere border protection policies and racialized displacements of Roma (Ivancheva 2015; Picker 2017; Vincze and Zamfir 2019). In this political climate, condemnation from the international community only reinforces anti-globalist colonial sentiments within the political right. The left refuses to embrace a broadly decolonial politics, instead acquiescing to the Eurocentric political consensus, which entails  a denial of a colonial present.

In this current context, we believe that exploring progressive ways to decolonize Eastern European knowledge by situating the region’s relations to coloniality and race within global structural contexts is a necessary step towards devising local emancipatory projects and contributing to global discussions about decolonization (Manolova, Kusic, and Lottholz 2019). We set out to grapple with the ‘colonial complexity’ of Eastern Europe’s ‘in-between,’ semi-peripheral position within the global capitalist world-system: being both an object of and facilitator to colonial and racial relations, and being both dependent upon – often still West-governed – (post)colonial networks and purveyor of European colonialism and racism on the global scale. To this end, we seek papers that address the following topics:

  • Global histories of the political role and structural integration of Eastern Europe in global colonialism, including the region’s relations to anti-colonialism and decolonization;
  • Comparative and relational epistemologies, theories and methods on ‘whiteness,’ race, class, and gender in Eastern Europe from post-, decolonial and global historical perspectives
  • Interrelations and circulations between the ‘Second’ and the ‘Third Worlds’ that shaped the everyday lives of local citizens, migrant workers, students, artists, travellers, experts and revolutionaries;
  • Re-conceptualizing 1989 and postsocialist change through post- and decolonial perspectives within global historical change, including shifting positions and circulating concepts of coloniality and race;
  • The recent resurgence of ‘colonial discourse’ and the mobilization of colonial pasts and experiences in Eastern Europe within recent political discourse;
  • The role of Eastern Europe in ‘bordering Europe’, ‘Fortress Europe’, and post-2008 civilizational and racial ‘othering’ against the former Third World or the Global South;
  • Coloniality in anti-coloniality, continuities and contestations of Eurocentrism, colonialist and racist tropes in Eastern European knowledge and culture from a global historical perspective;
  • Placing local and regional colonialisms/imperialisms and racisms in Eastern Europe, including their current political heritage, within global colonialism;
  • Recent Eastern European perceptions, interpretations and political mobilization of or resistance against anti-racist and decolonization movements (e.g. Black Lives Matter).

Please email abstract submissions (250 words) to zginelli@gmail.com and jonathan.mccombs@uga.edu by November 10, October 26th, 2020.

Download in .pdf.

Cover photo: The native American Indian feather headdress displaying the Hungarian national colors of red, white and green was given as a gift by the American scouts to the Jamboree Camp Chief and Chief Scout of Hungary, Count Pál Teleki at the 4th World Scout Jamboree in Gödöllö, Hungary in 1933.

Join our Facebook group Decolonizing Eastern Europe and follow us on Twitter (@DecolonizingE).

References:

Boatcă, M. (2010). “The Eastern Margins of Empire: Coloniality in 19th Century Romania.” In: Mignolo, W. and Escobar, A. (eds.): Globalization and the Decolonial Option. London and New York: Routledge.

Böröcz, J. (2009): The European Union and Global Social Change: A Critical Geopolitical-Economic Analysis. London and New York: Routledge.  

Frank, A. G. (1994): The Thirdworldization of Russia and Eastern Europe. In: Hersh, J., Schmidt, J. D. (eds.): The Aftermath of ‘Real Existing Socialism’ in Eastern Europe. Vol. 1: Between Western Europe and East Asia. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 39–61.

Ginelli, Z. (2018): Hungarian Experts in Nkrumah’s Ghana: Decolonization and Semiperipheral Postcoloniality in Socialist Hungary. Mezosfera, 5. http://mezosfera.org/hungarian-experts-in-nkrumahs-ghana

Ginelli, Z. (forthcoming): Global Colonialism and Hungarian Semiperipheral Imperialism in the Balkans. In: Boatcă, M. (ed.) De-Linking, Critical Thought and Radical Politics. London: Routledge.

Grzechnik, M. (2019): The Missing Second World: On Poland and Postcolonial Studies. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 21(7): 998–1014.

Ivancheva, M. (2015): From Informal to Illegal: Roma Housing in (Post-)Socialist Sofia. Intersections: East European Journal of Society and Politics, 1(4): 38–54. 

Mark, J., Iacob, B. C., Rupprecht, T., Spaskovska, L. (2019): 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mark, J., Kalinovsky, A. and Marung, S. (eds.)(2020): Alternative Globalizations: Eastern Europe and the Postcolonial World. Indiana University Press.

Mark, J. and Slobodian, Q. (2018): Eastern Europe in the Global History of Decolonization. In: Thomas, M., Thompson, A. S. (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Manolova, P., Kusić, K., Lottholz, P. (2019): Introduction: From Dialogue to Practice: Pathways towards Decoloniality in Southeast Europe. d’Versia Special Issue: Decolonial Theory and Practice in Southeast Europe, (March): 7–30.

Muehlenbeck, P. E. and Telepneva, N. (eds.)(2018): Warsaw Pact Intervention in the Third World:  Aid and Influence in the Cold War. I. B. Taurus.

Picker, G. (2017). Racial Cities: Governance and the Segregation of Romani People in Europe. London and New York: Routledge.

Scheiring, G. (2020): The Retreat of Liberal Democracy: Authoritarian Capitalism and the Accumulative State in Hungary. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Szombati, K. (2018): The Revolt of the Provinces: Anti-Gypsyism and Right-Wing Politics in Hungary. New York – London: Berghahn Books.

Vincze, E., and Zamfir, G. (2019): Racialized Housing Unevenness in Cluj-Napoca under Capitalist Redevelopment. City, 23(4–5): 439–460.

Wallerstein, I. (2004). World-Systems Analysis; An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Wekker, G. (2016): White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Durham: Duke University Press.Wimmler, J., and Weber, K. (eds.) (2020): Globalized Peripheries: Central Europe and the Atlantic World. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer Press.

Postcolonial Hungary: Eastern European Semiperipheral Positioning in Global Colonialism

Is there a postcolonial Hungary? This project focuses on situating Hungary’s historical development in the global histories of colonialism and anti-colonialism. It interrogates the revival of colonial discourse in the region and explores how it displaced a politics of Western transition and convergence by reconstructing the histories of Hungarian colonial discourse and self-positioning in the world economic system.

Postcolonial studies have been preoccupied with the global economic centre and periphery, but the complex historical relations, experiences and epistemologies of Eastern European and Hungarian colonialism and imperialism have been remarkably silenced (Mayblin et al. 2016; Mark and Slobodian 2018; Grzechnik 2019). Meanwhile, new research has shown that Cold War epistemological heritage rendered connections between postsocialism and postcolonialism problematic (Chari and Verdery 2008; Gille 2010; Mayblin et al. 2016), and East-West convergence discourse has marginalised historical relations between Eastern Europe and the Global South (Mark and Apor 2015; Mark and Slobodian 2018; Muehlenbeck and Telepneva 2018; Mark et al. 2020; Stanek 2020). Following a global historical and world-systemic perspective, this research introduces the concept of semiperipheral post/coloniality to unpack Hungarian coloniality in the long-term historical context of integrating into the world economy, thereby offering a structuralist critique of constructivist approaches to postcolonialism (e.g. Wolff 1994; Bakić-Hayden 1995; Todorova 1997). The Hungarian semiperipheral integration to the hierarchical system of the global division of labour has generated structural path-dependencies (uneven exchange, indebtedness, financing technology) (Márk et al. 2014), which resulted in global manoeuvring to gain comparative advantages between the (former) colonising centre and the (former) colonised periphery. This led to an uneasy and often antagonistic in-betweeness in the context of global hierarchies: being superior coloniser but oppressed colonised; catching up to and benefiting from but contesting the colonial centre; bridging or allying to but demarcating from the periphery. This project seeks to reconstruct the history of such a semiperipheral Eastern European country in order to understand the new political stakes in the revival of colonial discourse in current Hungarian politics.

Before WWII, Hungarian colonialist-imperialist ambitions followed nationalist and global racial-civilisational aspirations, but pragmatically developed East-West in-betweenness and uneasy criticism towards the imperialist West. Local experiences of peripheralisation, underdevelopment and out-migration forged sympathy with those in a similarly subservient position within the colonial system, but there also evolved alternative colonialisms of semiperipheral expansion and racial supremacy (e.g. Balkanism, Orientalism, Turanism). After WWII, state-socialist anti-colonial solidarity contested geopolitical fault-lines and Western European protectionism (1957), but Hungarian trajectories were driven by pragmatic, state-led foreign policy aims to lever Soviet and Western “dual dependency” (Böröcz 1992) by opening to Afro-Asian decolonisation. Amidst fears of international isolation (Péteri 2012), the post-1956 Hungarian alliance-building and global positioning encouraged to encounter coloniality through socialist internationalism (Mark and Apor 2015; Mark et al. 2020). Hungary re-opened to the decolonised periphery with “civilisational” desires to export the “Hungarian model” and develop markets to counter the global centre, whilst the periphery contributed to Hungarian “third way” state-centred and semi-capitalist export-oriented growth as a new integration strategy during the 1960s New Economic Mechanism (Ginelli 2017, 2018). On the other hand, rivalling narratives clashed between state-socialist anti-Western anti-colonialism and émigré “Soviet colonialism” in the Non-Aligned postcolonial world about how to incorporate Hungary and Eastern Europe into global colonialism.

After 1989, Hungary as part of the former Second World lost its global ideological privileges and Afro-Asian connections, and experienced third-worldification by becoming the core’s “undeveloped” region. The postsocialist “return to Europe” and self-colonising neoliberal “transition” silenced anti-colonial critique against the West (or the EU) (Böröcz 2009), and resulted in “postsocialist amnesia” on former relations with the global postcolonial world and in racial realignment with whiteness (Böröcz and Sarkar 2017; Mark et al. 2019). After the 2008 crisis, Viktor Orbán’s increasingly authoritarian “illiberal” turn from 2010 on sought to globally reposition Hungary against the “failed liberalism” of Western transition. Apart from various political regionalisms (“classical Europe”, “Central Europe”, “Eurasia”) (Balogh 2015; 2017), this geopolitical manoeuvring produced a new colonial discourse which positioned Hungary against the liberal, Atlantic-Western colonial-imperial centre (“Brussels is the new Moscow”, “we never had colonies”, “we will not become colonies”), while constructing selective racial-civilisational demarcation from the periphery in anti-migration discourse, and appropriating global colonial history exclusively for Eastern European nationalist victimisation. This Hungarian semiperipheral postcolonial identity politics not only exploits the country’s silenced historical experiences of coloniality (Ottoman: 1526, Habsburg: 1848, Trianon: 1920, Soviet: 1949, 1956), but also functions in the semiperipheral re-adaptation to current hegemonic shifts in the world economy. Hungary’s “Eastern turn” to the New Silk Road exploits Turanist Orientalism towards Central Asia, “illiberalism” and “Christian democracy” functions in developing new global alliance networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, while the reaffirmation of European whiteness and appropriation of colonial history aims to exclude Afro-Asian postcolonial competition for benefits in the European Union.

This research is part of my Leibniz ScienceCampus “Eastern Europe – Global Area” reseearch project at Universität Leipzig.

Bibliography

Bakić-Hayden, M. (1995): Nesting Orientalism: the Case of Former Yugoslavia. Slavic Review, 54(4): 917–931.

Balogh, P. (2015): Returning to Eurasia from the heart of Europe? Geographical metanarratives in Hungary and beyond. In: Törnquist-Plewa, B., Bernsand, N., Narvselius, E. (eds.) Beyond Transition? Memory and Identity Narratives in Eastern and Central Europe. Lund University. 191–208.

––––. (2017): The revival of ‘Central Europe’ among Hungarian political elites: its meaning and geopolitical implications. Hungarian Geographical Bulletin, 66(3): 191–202.

Böröcz, J. (1992): Dual Dependency and the Informalization of External Linkages: The Case of Hungary. Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, 14: 189–209.

Böröcz, J. (2009): The European Union and Global Social Change: A Critical Geopolitical-Economic Analysis. Routledge.

Böröcz, J., Sarkar, M. (2017): The Unbearable Whiteness of the Polish Plumber and the Hungarian Peackock Dance around “Race”. Slavic Review, 76(2): 307–314.

Chari, S., Verdery, K. (2009): Thinking between the Posts: Postcolonialism, Postsocialism, and Ethnography after the Cold War. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51(1): 6–34.

Gille, Z. (2010): Is There a Global Postsocialist Condition? Global Society, 24(1): 9–30.

Ginelli, Z. (2017): Opening the Semi-Periphery: Hungary and Decolonisation. OSA Visegrad Fund Scholarship Research Report.

Ginelli, Z. (2018): Hungarian Experts in Nkrumah’s Ghana: Decolonization and Semiperipheral Postcoloniality in Socialist Hungary. Mezosfera, 5. http://mezosfera.org/hungarian-experts-in-nkrumahs-ghana/

Grzechnik, M. (2019): The Missing Second World: On Poland and Postcolonial Studies. Interventions, 21(7): 998–1014.

Mark, J., Apor, P. (2015): Socialism Goes Global: Decolonization and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary, 1956–1989. The Journal of Modern History, 87(4): 852–891.

Mark, J., Slobodian, Q. (2018): Eastern Europe in the Global History of Decolonization. In: Thomas, M., Thompson, A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the Ends of Empire. Oxford University Press. 351–372.

Mark, J., Iacob, B. C., Rupprecht, T., Spaskocska, L. (2019): 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Mark, J., Kalinovsky, A., Marung, S. (eds.)(2020): Alternative Globalizations: Encounters Between the Eastern Bloc and the Postcolonial World. Indiana University Press.

Márk, É., Gagyi, Á., Gerőcs, T., Jelinek, C., Pinkasz A. (2014): 1989: Szempontok a rendszerváltás globális politikai gazdaságtanához. [1989: Considerations for the global political economy of the system change.] Fordulat, 21(1): 11–61.

Mayblin, L., Piekut, A., Valentine, G. (2016): ’Other’ Posts in ’Other’ Places: Poland through a Postcolonial Lens? Sociology, 50(1): 60–76.

Muehlenbeck, P. E., Telepneva, N. (eds.)(2018): Warsaw Pact Intervention in the Third World: Aid and Influence in the Cold War. I. B. Taurus

Péteri, G. (2012): Transsystemic Fantasies: Counterrevolutionary Hungary at Brussels’ Expo ’58. Journal of Contemporary History, 47(1): 137–160.

Stanek, Ł. (2020): Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War. Princeton University Press. Todorova, M. (1997): Imagining the Balkans. Oxford University Press.

See chapters of this project on this blog:

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Hungarian Indians: Racial and Anti-Colonial Solidarity in Post-Trianon Hungary. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.03.18. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/03/18/hungarian-indians-racial-and-anti-colonial-solidarity-in-post-trianon-hungary

Ginelli Z. (2019): The Semiperipheral Colonial Alternative: Visions of Hungarian Catholic Postcoloniality in Latin America. Critical Geographies Blog. 2019.07.11. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/07/11/the-semiperipheral-colonial-alternative-visions-of-hungarian-catholic-postcoloniality-in-latin-america

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Plotting the Semiperipheral Empire: Hungarian Balkanism and Global Colonialism in Geographical Knowledge, 1867–1948. Critical Geographies Blog, 2020.03.18. Link: https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/03/18/plotting-the-semiperipheral-empire-hungarian-balkanism-and-global-colonialism-in-geographical-knowledge-1867-1948

Ginelli, Z. (2019): Posztkoloniális Magyarország: A magyar globális nyitás és illiberális autoriter fordulat újraértelmezése a félperifériás gyarmatiság szempontjából. Critical Geographies Blog, 2019.08.11. https://kritikaifoldrajz.hu/2019/08/11/posztkolonialis-magyarorszag-a-magyar-globalis-nyitas-es-illiberalis-autoriter-fordulat-ujraertelmezese-a-felperiferias-gyarmatisag-szempontjabol

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

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

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

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.

“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.