Zoltán Ginelli

Zoltán Ginelli

University of Public Service Budapest

Zoltán Ginelli is a geographer and global historian at the University of Public Service in Budapest, Hungary. He follows a world-systemic and decolonial approach to study the global history of Hungarian coloniality and the relations between Eastern Europe and the Global South. In 2021, he co-curated the exhibition ‘Transperiphery Movement’. Currently, he is finishing his book ‘The Global Histories of the Quantitative Revolution’ and a co-written book on the global history of Hungarian coloniality for Cambridge University Press.

Talk Information:

Semiperipheral Whiteness: Hungary’s Racial Positioning in Global Colonial History
January 13, 2023 | 9:00 AM

Mainstream literature on whiteness remains Westcentric and often ignores Eastern European positions. Hungary’s place within the global history of racial colonialism has been rather selectively interpreted, under-researched, or silenced. Ottoman and Habsburg rule, Western imperialism, and Soviet occupation have often been defined as ‘colonialism’ by Hungarians to address their white national victimhood and to escape ‘Balkanization’, ‘Orientalization’, and a ‘not-quite-white’ global status. However, Hungarian development was indeed conditioned by global colonialism. Hungarians imagined themselves as part of an expanding white colonial frontier to attain their ‘Europeanness’, ‘modernity’, and ‘nationness’. Yet ‘Hungarianness’ was often imagined as revolting against or resisting the white global core by embracing or incorporating peripheral, non-white, anti-colonial, or counter-hegemonic positions. Building on post/decolonial and world-systemic approaches, this talk introduces ‘semiperipheral whiteness’ to capture this structural dynamic of core-periphery in-betweenness. This positioning dynamic surfaced in recent conservative, illiberal government discourse after 2012: against the liberal, multicultural, and imperialist West, Hungarians are ‘innocent whites’ who ‘never had colonies’ and are free from ‘white guilt’. Reflecting on how global history informs the intertwined denial and politicization of racial colonialism in contemporary Hungary offers wider conclusions about how to globalize the Eastern European ‘(de)colonial turn’ now propelled by the Ukrainian war.

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