Spatializing Hungary’s ‘Colonial Missionarism’: The Global Geographies of Religion and Securitization in the ‘Colonial Turn’ of Hungarian Political Disourse

Photo: – 13 October, 2017

This paper looks at the global geographies of the ‘colonial turn’ in the Orbán governments’ post-2010 political discourse in Hungary from the perspective of religion and securitization. After 2010, ‘Central Europe’ became demarcated by government discourse as a “non-colonizer” and “ethnically homogeneous” region from the “colonizer”, multicultural/racial and therefore decadent West. Declared as a “Christian democracy”, the Hungarian “illiberal” state fused the preservation of a Central European ‘pure’ religious identity with Eurocentric, colonial and post-imperial arguments after the 2015 refugee crisis. This supported fear-mongering securitization to frame immigration as an Islamophobic and racial demographic threat from the Global South in order to “defend Christian Europe”. The paper applies a world-systemic and postcolonial approach to focus on two related aspects.

Firstly, Hungarian illiberal revolt against the Western neoliberal order via ‘colonial disobedience’ transformed into a religiously ideologized ‘national neoliberalism’ (Ban, Scheiring, Vasile 2021), in which local ‘clientelistic state’ social security is intertwined with global securitization and the geopolitics of fear against ‘othered’ religions, notably Islam. This is elucidated through the Hungarian reception of Max Weber’s thought, which after 1989 served an anti-Marxist agenda to legitimate market and democratic liberalism, but after 2010 influenced “national liberalism”, “charismatic leadership” and “world value surveys” that reproduced the Eurocentrist, Orientalist and racial-colonial preconceptions behind the neo-Weberian comparative sociology of world religions. North American Neo-Weberianism and Parsonian modernization theory informed Samuel P. Huntington’s geopolitical ideas of the religion-based “clash of civilizations”, which legitimated Islamophobic post-9/11 sentiment and later influenced the Orbán governments’ geopolitics.

Secondly, Christianity also substituted socialist internationalism as a new global ideology of Hungary. The state humanitarian aid organization Hungary Helps uses Christian religion as a comparative advantage to gain alliances and investments in the Global South, increasingly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The paper elucidates the complex ‘scalar political economy’ behind how the local ideology of “Christian freedom” is contradictingly embedded in Hungary’s “global struggle against Christian persecution” to “stop migration” as a form of new ‘colonial missionarism’. It concludes that Westcentric scholars continue to ignore Hungary’s semiperipheral integration into the world economy as a structural condition to the country’s geographical maneuvering of demarcating from the West while opening up to the Global South.

The paper aims to globalize the Hungarian government’s Christian identity politics via race and coloniality in relation to its opening to the Global South through humanitarian aid. It does so by connecting religion with securitization and development, aiming to offer a critical approach to the popular or mainstream accounts of political scientists, international relations specialists, sociologists and economists on the “illiberal turn” and the Orbán governments’ politics that usually treat Christianity as politicized on the local/national level, while they totally silence the global picture and the government’s strategies of global “branding” and maneuvering — building alliances, diplomatic relations and securing investments through humanitarian aid.

My presentation at the Religion and Securitization in Central and Eastern Europe conference organized by the Convivence Research Group and held in Szeged at the University of Szeged, Faculty of Humanities.

Citation info on book chapter coming soon!

Cite this abstract: Ginelli, Z. (2022): Spatializing Orbán’s ‘Colonial Missionarism’: The Global Geographies of Religion and Securitization in the ‘Colonial Turn’ of Hungarian Political Disourse., 23 April.