This the 12th session of the successful Decolonising Europe Lecture Series. In this session the gaze is towards Eastern Europe. Where is Eastern Europe in the history of global colonialism? This session explores why Eastern Europe has been largely absent from mainstream histories of global colonialism and studies of postcolonialism and decolonialism.
The region’s integration into capitalism meant integrating into an evolving global colonial-racial system. Eastern Europeans were often racialised as inferior and ‘uncivilised’ while their region became a dependent hinterland and colonial arena of various imperialist projects. However, Eastern Europeans also supported global colonialism, (re)produced white supremacy and Eurocentric or colonial worldviews, partook in colonial expeditions and accumulated colonial collections, and strove to acquire colonies and build empires. The region’s contradictory historical relationship with colonialism is laden with the tensions and challenges of ‘in-betweenness’: being part of ‘white Europe’ and striving to ‘catch up’ to the West, but being ‘not-quite-white’ and a (semi)periphery of the core. This tension facilitated various strategies of globally manoeuvring between rebel anti-colonial alliances and comprador colonialist positions.
How do these contradictory histories inform current debates about anti-racism and decolonisation? What are the challenges of decolonial politics in a postsocialist region where “white lives matter”? Can we decolonise the ‘non-colonisers’?
This event is co-organized by ACES and Zoltán Ginelli to foster dialogue on Decolonising Eastern Europe. Please follow the group Decolonizing Eastern Europe on Facebook and Twitter for existing debates and collaborations on the topic.
Zoltán Ginelli is a critical geographer and Independent Researcher from Budapest (Hungary), currently working on his book on the global history of the ‘quantitative revolution’. He is member of Karl Polanyi Research Centre and the Dialoguing Posts Network. During 2015–2019, he worked as Assistant Researcher in the Leverhulme Trust and AHRC research projects 1989 After 1989 and Socialism Goes Global. He is co-curating with Eszter Szakács the exhibition Transperiphery Movement: Global Eastern Europe and Global South for the 2021 OFF-Biennale Budapest. Zoltán is founder admin of Decolonizing Eastern Europe (Facebook, Twitter) and blogs at kritikaifoldrajz.hu.
James Mark is a Professor of History at the University of Exeter. He has recently been part of projects aimed at rethinking Eastern European history in the context of global Empires and their ends. He was Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award (2014 – 2019): ‘1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective’; and an Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) funded project; ‘Socialism Goes Global: Cold War Connections Between the ‘Second’ and ‘Third Worlds” (2015-19). He is the author of The Unfinished Revolution: Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) and co-author of Europe’s 1968: Voices of Revolt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe and co-editor of Alternative Globalisations: Eastern Europe and the Postcolonial World. A co-written work reframing Eastern European history as part of a global story of Empires and their ends will be published with OUP later this year.