Négritude and Pan-Africanism in Eastern EUrope

The event is part of the Transperiphery Conversations series organized in conjunction with the exhibition Transperiphery Movement: Global Eastern Europe and Global South, curated by Eszter Szakács and Zoltán Ginelli at OFF-Biennale Budapest.

In socialist Eastern Europe many translations of black writers’ anti-colonial, anti-racist and Pan-Africanist literature appeared, which have been almost completely forgotten after the 1989/91 system change. Black writers, such as Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, or W. E. B. du Bois, or leaders of new postcolonial countries, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor in Senegal or Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, became important political allies for Eastern Europeans within socialist internationalism. However, discussions about global socialist anti-colonialism often forget that Pan-Africanism and the négritude movement had deeper roots in the early 20th century diasporic and circulation networks of the Black Atlantic, within the triangle of Paris, West Africa, and Afro-America. Eastern Europeans were also involved in the diasporic and circulation networks of colonial metropoles, bringing home ideas and experiences about race and coloniality. In the interwar era, populist “folk writers” and village researchers pursued nativism, naturalism, neoprimitivism, and the exoticization of their “indigenous” peasant populations, seeking authentic racial origins to defend their national sovereignty and contest their dependency from hegemonic colonial empires. Eastern European literature often expressed a semiperipheral raciality of being “peripheral whites,” identifying with the black position or being the “white negro” in Europe. These various authors, writings, genres, and translations later prevailed or often were repositioned to serve socialist era anti-colonialism and to express anti-racist solidarity with the postcolonial countries of the Global South.

Philosopher and cultural theorist Ovidiu Ţichindeleanu in conversation with Zoltán Ginelli will  focus on case studies and insights from Hungary and Romania. Their conversation will revolve around the following questions:

  1. What was the Eastern European reception of and contributions to négritude and Pan-Africanism? Which authors and what genres were translated, and which were forgotten or rediscovered after the 1989/91 system change?
  2. Were there any historical parallels or interconnections developed in this literature about coloniality, race, and decolonization between Eastern Europe and the Global South?
  3. How can the position of Eastern Europe within this wider history inform our current political and academic discourses of decolonialism, anti-racism, and anti-systemic critique?