‘Hungarian Indians’: Race, Colonialism and Memory Politics in Hungarian ‘Indian Play’

I talk about how semiperipheral “whiteness” should reconfigure our ideas of Eastern European racial and colonial history through the case of Hungarian ‘Indian play’. The “tradition” of whites playing out Native Americans in cultural and racial performances was often an antagonistic practice of anti-colonial solidarity and colonial appropriation. In the Eastern European case, it often became a way of contesting Western hegemony, but through mimicking Western colonial cultures of appropriation and “nativism”. Today, the Orbán government is building on this colonial and racial heritage through nationalist anti-communist memory politics.

My short lecture was part of the seminar “White Innocence: Eastern Europe Populism and the Politics of History” organized by the International Institute of Cultural Enquiry (IICE) in collaboration with the Exeter Decolonising Network (EDN) at the University of Exeter.

My scholarship in 2021 was funded by the ‘Decolonising Development’ CA19129 (09/09/2020 – 08/09/2024) COST Action (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), who are a funding agency for research and innovation networks. Their Actions help connect research initiatives across Europe and enable scientists to grow their ideas by sharing them with their peers. This boosts their research, career and innovation.

The papers are based on previous work in the Socialism Goes Global and 1989 After 1989 research projects, and introduce some of the main tenets of our book in development “Hungary Between the Colonial and Anti-Colonial Worlds” (2023) co-authored by Zoltán Ginelli, James Mark and Péter Apor for Cambridge University Press. My paper is also based on my previous paper presented at the “Historicizing Whiteness in Eastern Europe” conference in Bucharest in 2019.

Thursday, 3rd February, 2022, 12.00–13.15 PM


James Mark (University of Exeter)

Zoltan Ginelli (Decolonising Development COST Action)


In this seminar, the speakers will introduce ‘What is currently at stake in history writing in Eastern Europe, in the context of populist politics?’ and consider the potential of decolonising the region’s history.


12.00 – 12.03: Intro from Rob Gleave; Director of the International Institute of Cultural Enquiry (IICE) (3mins)

12.03 – 12.06: Chair Nicola Thomas (Exeter Decolonising Network (EDN)) introduces the speakers (3 mins)

12.06 – 12.15: Speakers introduce the topic (9 mins)

12.15 – 12.30: Paper 1: James Mark on ‘Wilson’s White World: The Creation of Eastern European Nation States, and the Erasure of Raced Origin Stories’ (15 mins)

12.30 – 12.45: Paper 2: Zoltán Ginelli on ‘Hungarian Indians: Race, Colonialism and Memory Politics in Hungarian ‘Indian Play’’ (15 mins)

12.45 – 13.15: Discussion hosted by Chair (30 mins)

My research is original: you are obliged to cite my talk accordingly. If not referenced in my talk, I partly built my paper on the work of Hungarian historians and archivists, most notably Béla Kelényi, Arnold Tóth, Ferenc Gergely, Olivér Perczel (who studies Buffalo Bill in Hungary) & Zoltán Györe.

See some source links: