Semiperipheral Hungary in Global Colonialism

Authors: Zoltan Ginelli*, Independent Researcher
Topics: East Europe, Political Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: Hungary, semiperipheral coloniality, global colonialism, global history, whiteness
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper introduces the concept of semiperipheral (post)coloniality to unpack the long-term historical process of Hungarian integration into global colonialism. It offers a structuralist critique of mainstream constructivist and relationalist approaches in postcolonial studies, and questions Eastern European “exceptionalism” in Western/Northern hegemonic narratives of global colonial history. Hungarian semiperipheral integration articulated an antagonistic positioning dynamic in-between the global core/periphery and the colonizer/colonized: catching up to but contesting the core; allying to but demarcating from the periphery. While being on the periphery of Atlantic colonialism after the 16th century, Hungarians nevertheless integrated into global colonialism and their colonialist-imperialist ambitions later aligned to Eurocentric white racial-civilizational privileges, while developing ‘frustrated’ or ‘peripheral whiteness’, East-West hybridity and racial in-betweenness, and ambivalent criticisms against the imperialist West. After WWII, state-socialist anti-colonial solidarity aimed at levering dependency to the core through peripheral alliances by opening to Afro-Asian decolonization. The post-1989 “return to Europe” and neoliberal “transition” created a postsocialist amnesia: silencing both anti-colonial critique and disintegrating previous cultural-economic relations to postcolonial non-core countries. Viktor Orbán’s authoritarian “illiberal turn” after 2010 sought to globally reposition Hungary by constructing a new colonial discourse against the “liberal”, Western postcolonial/imperial core (the EU), and constructing selective racial-civilizational demarcation from the periphery. This postcolonial identity and recognition politics builds on historical fears from being colonized and positions Hungary in the “non-colonizer” camp to escape “white guilt”, whilst appropriating global colonial history for Hungarian victimization. This paper explores the neglected historical continuities and political stakes in this new Hungarian colonial discourse.

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