Global South Students 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.

Socialist internationalism and anti-colonial solidarity allowed for a significant number of incoming students from the postcolonial Global South. The political gaze and imagery of state propaganda actively built on various political performances that subjected these students. Education was also often used to politically persuade students, who sometimes complained about ideological indoctrination and perceived racism, while the state tried to conceal actual racial conflicts in everyday life. On many occasions students were treated collectively as “Arabs,” “Africans,” or “Asians”, and struggled to contest collective, often racial stereotypes. Despite state control, anti-colonial and anti-racist socialist solidarity allowed for the development of personal interactions and relationships, and the sharing of experiences between people from regions which had little contact before. Students’ education shaped their social mobility and future lives and identities after returning home, while many decided to settle and gain local citizenship. After the 1989 system change, their presence in Eastern Europe has become increasingly forgotten. The recent anti-immigration propaganda since the 2015 refugee crisis and the local reception of anti-racist and decolonization movements call for a re-evaluation of the visual portrayal and personal memories of these students in a wider historical approach that reaches back to the socialist era.

Photographer and curator Bartosz Nowicki in conversation with Zoltán Ginelli talk about the socialist era history of Global South students in Eastern Europe by focusing on Poland and Hungary, and introduce Nowicki’s Afro-PRL (Polish People’s Republic) project showcased in the exhibition. Their conversation will revolve around the following questions:

  1. How to approach the often forgotten histories of Global South students in Eastern Europe, including their experiences of racism and state-controlled political discourse?
  2. What can be said about the visual communication and portrayal of these students, and how can different image collections (state propaganda, institutional archives, private collections) be used to narrate their histories?
  3. How can these students’ pasts, memories and current lives inform contemporary Eastern European political discussions of immigration, bordering and the racialization of people of color from the Global South?