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About me

Zoltán Ginelli is a geographer and historian of science. His research is in the geographies of knowledge, the history of geography, and global and transnational history. His main focus is on the historical relations between Eastern Europe and the Global South/Third World in the 19th and 20th centuries, including topics such as development and regional planning, (post)colonialism and racism, Cold War foreign policy, and travel writing. He lectured at various universities and colleges, and worked as an assistant researcher in the 1989 After 1989 and Socialism Goes Global projects at the University of Exeter (2015–2019). His current project, Postcolonial Hungary explores Hungarian semiperipheral colonial history from a world-systemic perspective. He is curating the exhibition Transperiphery Movement: Global Eastern Europe and Global South, and finishing his book based on 7 years of research about the global history of the quantitative revolution in geography.

Photo: Dániel Borovi

Poliko Podcast #4: The Transperiphery Movement Exhibition: Towards a Global History of Peripheral Connections

Dávid Karas talks with Zoltán Ginelli, a Hungarian critical geographer whose research repositions the semi-peripheral experience of Hungarian modernization in a global context, by studying the many points of connections linking peoples, ideas, expertise, institutions and political utopias in Hungary to other peripheries in the postcolonial Global South. Zoltán has co-curated with Eszter Szakács a fantastic exhibition in Budapest entitled Transperiphery Movement, where he examines these trans-peripheral connections in collaboration with a host of artists and scholars. We talk about Zoltán’s own research on postcoloniality, race and global history from an Eastern European perspective, and the themes through which the exhibition examines these topics.

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Tracing the Global History of the Quantitative Revolution: The Transnational History of Central Place Theory

My book project is about the global histories of the “quantitative revolution” in geography. The quantitative revolution has been an epochal textbook chapter in geography’s canonical history, when the discipline transformed into a rigorous social science backed by predictive mathematical methods in the early Cold War. An iconic scientific concept of this quantitative movement, most notably related to Walter Christaller (1933) and August Lösch (1939), was central place theory (CPT). With the globalization of the quantitative revolution after its emergence from the Second World War in the United States, location theories such as CPT became widespread in urban and regional planning across the world. How did quantitative spatial analysis and planning develop in different parts of the world? In what different geographical contexts were location theories like CPT read, reinterpreted, applied, and mobilized? How were these often very different contexts connected? This book offers to fill this significant gap in geography’s twentieth century global history by deconstructing the mainstream Anglo-American narrative and tracing the quantitative revolution through the circulation and local applications of CPT in the “Second” and “Third” worlds and into the pre-Cold War era.

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The ‘Ghana Job’: Opening Semiperipheral Hungary to the Postcolonial World

This paper follows a world-systemic and decolonial approach to investigate Hungarian semiperipheral positioning strategies in global colonial history by looking at the interactions and converging interests of Hungary and Ghana in the early 1960s. The paper focuses on József Bognár, a hugely important but forgotten political figure in socialist era Hungarian economics and foreign economic policy-making. In 1963, Bognár founded a government think tank, the Centre for AfroAsian Research (CAAR) at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (renamed in 1973 as the Institute for World Economy). The institute evolved out of Bognár’s “Ghana job”: Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, on the occasion of his Eastern European round-trip in 1961, asked Bognár to develop Ghana’s First Seven-Year Plan.

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Hungarian Race for Anti-Colonial Recognition in the Third World

This paper overviews three case studies on how Hungarians opened to Afro-Asian decolonization and the emerging Non-Aligned Third World between the mid-1950s and early 1960s. The first case is ex-premier Ferenc Nagy’s anti-communist criticism of “Soviet colonialism” influencing the first Afro-Asian conference in Bandung (1955); the second is István Bibó and Árpád Göncz opting for non-alignment and seeking aid from India during the 1956 revolution; the third is József Bognár’s attempt at development planning in Ghana and the wider Third World. The paper explores how former Smallholders’ Party members pursued different political paths ultimately connected by attempts of forming anti-colonial alliances, and how Hungarian postwar political agendas globalized to translate and connect to the postcolonial world. Finally, it asks why these Hungarian interactions are missing from the global history of the Non-Aligned Movement.

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‘Hungarian Negro’: Race and Coloniality in Interwar Hungarian Literature

The paper aims to contest the ‘Cold War paradigm’ by interpreting deeper connections to the anti-Semitic interwar era within global colonialism. This paper provides an overview by focusing on three different Hungarian cases from the art and documentary exhibition “Transperiphery Movement: Global Eastern Europe and Global South”: the Hungarian reception of René Maran’s Batouala (1921) which was translated by the famous writer Dezső Kosztolányi, Illés Kaczér’s Ikongo Will Not Die (1936) which is considered as the first Hungarian ‘negro novel’, and Miklós Radnóti’s poetry and translations inspired by African culture. It asks why and how these authors and writings were either completely forgotten or repositioned to demonstrate socialist era anti-colonialism and anti-racist solidarity with the postcolonial countries of the Third World.

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Földrajz, holokauszt és gyarmatosítás

Az 1950-es évek közepétől a földrajztudomány a második világháborút megnyerő természettudományok presztízsét követte, és egy matematizált, modellező, regionális tervező tudománnyá vált. Ez az ún. „kvantitatív forradalom” a győztes USA-ból indult hódító útjára, mégpedig a világháborús katonai-ipari konjunktúra okozta tudományos forradalom lendületével, amely az USA globális tudományos hegemóniájához vezetett.

A két világháború közti német telephely-elméleteket, mint Christallerét is, aztán az amerikaiak globalizálták, ezzel párhuzamosan viszont saját felfogásaikat egyetemesítették, elfedve az általuk alkalmazott tudás európai és tágabb kontextusait. Készülő könyvem a christalleri elmélet tudásföldrajzának feltárására vállalkozik, és rávilágít arra, hogy a „kvantitatív forradalom” amerikai tudáshegemóniát legitimáló, technokrata megközelítése hogyan fedte el és depolitizálta az elmélet összefonódásait a gyarmati erőszakkal és a holokauszttal.

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Hogyan Lehetne elmesélni Magyarország történelmét nem a Nyugat felől elgondolva?

“Hogyan fér össze a magyar történelem mindenki által jól ismert elbeszéléseivel a dél-amerikai magyar telepesek vagy a Magyarországon dolgozó kubai munkások története? Mi köze volt Indiának az 1956-os magyar forradalom eseményeihez, vagy Radnóti Miklósnak a pánafrikai irodalomhoz? Hogyan függ össze a magyar underground képzőművészet, az Artpool munkássága a latin-amerikai konceptuális művészettel az 1980-as években? Ezekkel és számos hasonló kérdéssel foglalkozik a Transzperiféria Mozgalom kiállítása, amit az OFF-Biennále keretében május 30-ig lehet megnézni a Fészek Művészklubban, illetve követni a kiállítás folyamatosan frissülő honlapján.”