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Poland and the Jewish Question
Sudeep Dasgupta

The racial formation of nationalism from the perspective of migration produces multiple forms of whiteness. ‘Not quite/not white’ (Homi Bhabha) translated racial difference into a culturally hybrid formulation of the postcolonial subject in postcolonial theory. The consequence was the dilution of the focus on the nation by highlighting the diasporic subject. In Central and Eastern Europe, however, whiteness is firstly marked by the ambiguous history of the racial other within the nation rather than the historical colonisation of racial others. Furthermore, the often traumatic displacement of racial others in/from the region has more to do with forms of nationalism than colonialism. Thus, this displacement takes on an importance largely missing in deracinated postcolonial condemnations of the nation. Europe-based Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s And Europe Will Be Stunned: The Polish Trilogy provides a provocative invitation to think the disturbing place of race in the formation of nationalism precisely from these two dimensions: the history of racial difference (Jews) within the nation (Poland), and the centring of racial ‘returns’ for the past and future of nations in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond it. Through film, public performance and spoken/written word, And Europe… firstly stages the nation from the historical perspective of displaced/exterminated racial others. The chapter argues that through a provocative call for the return of the Jews into the Polish nation from which they fled or were exterminated, Bartana proposes a ghostly and literal racial hybridity within the nation to counter the ongoing construction of whiteness in the region. And Europe… also performs a powerful critique of the problematic politics of return in Israel that deploys Europe’s treatment of its Jewish others to consecrate the Israeli nation as an exclusively Jewish state. By thinking whiteness for/against the nation, the chapter shows how the returns of race and of racial others can help think a hybrid nation within Central and Eastern Europe and outside it. In a global perspective, whiteness in this space offers the racially hybrid nation rather than the culturally hybrid postcolonial subject as a counter to the racism of contemporary nationalisms.

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The Polish interwar Maritime and Colonial League and the ‘Jewish Question’
Marta Grzechnik

This chapter discusses how a Polish organisation called the Maritime and Colonial League constructed the dynamics of racialisation and othering of the Polish Jews, especially in relation to the Poles themselves in the late 1930s. In the League’s rhetoric, the Jews were singled out as a disruptive element in Europe: their domination in towns and cities, as well as typically urban occupations, was perceived as taking the place of the ethnic Poles, who themselves were becoming more urbanised. But the Jews could become a constructive element of the white European colonial world, as intermediaries and agents of Polish colonial expansion, and increasing the proportions of whites in the colonies – thus ‘becoming’ white overseas. I put the discussion in the context of the Poles’ own striving to be recognised as fully European and white, and capable of self-governance – which was sometimes put into question for the newly independent state. The ‘Jewish Question’ was also discussed as an international question, whose solution could contribute to the global political and economic stability. The chapter therefore contributes to the entangled history of anti-Semitism, as well as its complicated relation to Zionism, emigration policies, and colonial aspirations in Eastern Europe.

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Open Access (free)
Race and colonialism in Hungarian ‘Indian play’
Zoltán Ginelli

Critical literature on race and colonialism remains Westcentric and often ignores Eastern European positions, while Hungary’s place within the global history of racial colonialism has been selectively interpreted, underresearched, or silenced. This chapter turns to the case study of Hungarian ‘Indian play’ (whites representing, identifying, or performing as Native Americans) to show how the global histories of the cultural appropriation of Native American culture may be complicated by ‘semi-peripheral whiteness’. This world-systemic concept expresses an in-between position of ‘not-quite-whites’ evading ‘white guilt’ while identifying with ‘non-white’ racial positions, such as Native Americans, to express revolt against the white hegemony of the global core. The chapter overviews three historical contexts of performing the ‘Hungarian Indian’. First, the nationalist myths of solidarity with Native Americans related to the 1848 Hungarian independence war and ‘Habsburg colonialism’ by focusing on the popular figures of Lajos Kossuth and János Xántus. Second, the interwar-era influence of the Trianon (1920) trauma on appropriating ‘Indian play’ by the Christian-conservative and state-subsidised Boy Scout movement led by Győző Temesi, Pál Sztrilich, and Sándor Borvendég Deszkáss (White Deer), as well as the naturalist or anti-modernist grassroots community of the ‘Danubian Indians’ led by Ervin Baktay (Lazy Buffalo). Third, how ‘Indian play’ during the socialist era became part of an anti-communist resistance culture, as in the case of the ‘Bakony Indians’ led by Tamás Cseh (Smoke in His Eyes) or underground Christian Boy Scout movements, while remaining to be part of colonial consumerism in ‘Indian novels’. In conclusion, the chapter asks how this history informs the memory politics around the heritage of ‘Indian play’ in contemporary Hungarian culture.

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Russian-speaking migrants claiming whiteness in Helsinki
Daria Krivonos

Russian-speaking people represent one of the largest diasporas in the world. In Finland, they are the most numerous among migrant groups, comprising a quarter of all migrants. Due to particular histories between Finland and the Russian Empire/Soviet Union as well as intensified migration following the collapse of state socialism, Russian speakers are racialised as Finland’s Eastern Others. Drawing on fieldwork among young Russian-speaking migrants in Helsinki in 2014–16, this chapter shows that through their migration to Finland, they try to distance themselves from a failed socialist modernity and connect to futures that have supposedly been achieved in the ‘West’. The global imaginaries that divide the world into ‘the West and the rest’ structure their self-representations: they identify with ‘the global’, that is, Europe or the West. These claims to Europeanness through migration to Finland are inherently racialised and require constant effort to claim whiteness. Despite their distancing from putatively less modern or non-modern Others, the whiteness of Russian migrants is not fully recognised as they face social downgrading and remain low-paid workers or unemployed. Rather than aligning themselves with other minorities who also experience racialisation and racism, Russian-speaking migrants tend to distance themselves from ‘asylum-seekers’ and ‘refugees’ – all non-white people regardless of their legal status. Instead of questioning racial hierarchy, they only attempt to ascend it. The chapter concludes that young Russian-speakers’ views of themselves as aspiring white Europeans through migration should be placed within the broader histories that enable the idea of Europe as a racialised space of postcolonial whiteness.

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Open Access (free)
Racial disavowals – historicising whiteness in Central and Eastern Europe
James Mark
,
Anikó Imre
,
Bogdan C. Iacob
, and
Catherine Baker

Central and Eastern Europe has long been removed from global histories of race: this Introduction firstly explores the regional and global forces which have forged this capacity for disavowal, and analyses what has been long at stake in doing so. Second, we outline the region’s modern history as a ‘white semi-periphery’ integrating it into the racially hierarchical international order over the last two hundred years. We demonstrate how Central and Eastern Europe was tied up with the imperialism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We underline that a globalising approach to this space – through imperial and anti-imperial entanglements, mass migration and settler colonialism, and the reception of colonial culture – makes the centrality of race for the region’s history powerfully apparent. Third, we address how whiteness might be used to make sense of internal nation-building. We explore the role of Central and Eastern Europe in global race science, and show how racial hierarchy based on proximity to whiteness structured the societies not only of the newly established states of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but even the region’s Communist polities that publicly professed their rejection of such racial politics. The Introduction therefore situates whiteness as a main pillar of contemporary Eastern European populism within comprehensive temporal, geographic, and conceptual frameworks.

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Anikó Imre

This chapter takes the ‘folk horror’ film Midsommar (2019) as a case study against which to analyse cultural manifestations of whiteness in terms of their global and historical interconnections and in relation to the worldwide resurgence of white supremacy. American director Ari Aster’s film adopts the folk horror sub-formula of clueless Anglo-American travellers descending on exotic foreign locations, only to be brutally punished for their exploitative attitude in a symbolic gesture of postcolonial justice. Instead of sending its protagonists to Asia or Africa, however, the film’s group of visitors, including two young anthropology scholars, arrive in the symbolic heart of European whiteness, Hälsingland, to participate in the Swedish folk-mythic rituals of Midsommar. The film’s aesthetic and representational dimensions offer plentiful commentary on whiteness as an inherently violent but also nostalgically mourned European concept that is operationalised through seemingly innocuous folk-cultural traditions. And the chapter focuses on an aspect of the film that has received only passing mention: that it was shot on location outside Budapest, where the entire ‘Swedish’ set was built. The production employed a Hungarian crew and Hungarian cast in non-starring roles, who impersonated the ‘Swedish’ folks of the ritual gathering. I examine the media service industry as a counterpart to and an indispensable layer of understanding how European whiteness has been produced and has circulated within interconnected cultural and industrial-economic forms.

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Open Access (free)
Russians as Turanians in nineteenth-century Polish thought
Maciej Górny

The East-Central European discovery of whiteness as a mark of Europeanness was often linked to darkening those further east. This chapter reconstructs a particular moment, in the wake of the anti-Russian January Uprising (1863–64), when an assertive Polish national movement began to adopt racialising discourses to distance themselves from the Orient. The contribution focuses on the work of the nineteenth-century anthropologist Franciszek Duchiński (1816–93), a Polish political emigre born in Ukraine, who lived in Turkey, France, and Switzerland. He authored a theory about the non-Slavonic racial origin of the Russians who, according to this amateur anthropologist, represented the ‘Yellow’ race. His work had a major impact on Polish public opinion: through the underground press we can trace how Poles othered Russians in a racial fashion in order to make claims to (white) European nationhood. The chapter also traces the ‘reverse’ transfer of knowledge travelling from the European periphery to the centre (Paris) – a topic rarely discussed by scholars. Duchiński’s ideas were influential on the famed practitioner of early physical anthropology, Jean-Louis Armand de Quatrefages de Breau (1810–92). In the following decade, Quatrefages was acclaimed for his publication La race prussienne, which maintained that the Prussians were of Turani (Mongol) origin. By way of Duchiński, this pamphlet became a landmark in the history of (distorted) science and for studies of European racism.

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Open Access (free)
Central and Eastern Europe and the global history of race

Central and Eastern Europe has long been seen in the West as an ‘off white’ European periphery. Yet its nationalist movements have worked towards a full belonging in a white Europe, or have claimed themselves to be superior defenders of the white West. This volume demonstrates the centrality of white supremacy for over two centuries in the region’s nation-building, social hierarchies, ethnic homogenisation, and global interconnections. Such insight applies not only to the newly established states of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century founded at the heights of global colonialism, but also to the region’s Communist polities, which publicly professed their rejection of such racial politics. More broadly, we analyse the role that white peripheries play in the maintenance of a global racial order – including the question of why the region inspires contemporary radical nationalism around the world. The collection comprises studies of national self-determination, geographic exploration, migration, and diplomacy; of cultural representation in literature, film, the media industries, exhibitions, art, dress, and music; of intellectual and academic discourses; as well as explorations of the many forms of banal nationalism, including everyday artefacts and language. The volume underlines the potential for resistance in the region too by theorising its marginality and identifying solidarities with racialised minorities and the Global South. Central and Eastern Europe has long been removed from global histories of race. This is an original alternative history that explores and challenges long-held claims about the region’s racial innocence.

Accounts from Albania
Chelsi West Ohueri

This chapter explores constructions of whiteness and racial belonging in Albania through an analytical framework of what I term peripheral whiteness. Peripheral whiteness speaks to the ways that global racial orders shape paradoxical local landscapes, such that white European racial belonging is not fully conferred to Albanians, yet at the same time Albanians enact whiteness in relation to those locally racialised as ‘black’, particularly Roma and Balkan Egyptians. This chapter examines whiteness in multiple forms, through an inquiry that considers the history and historiography of race, as well as contemporary manifestations. The first section interrogates how Albanians have been racialised as non-European and as perpetual racial outsiders in Southeast Europe. The chapter’s second section explores peripheral whiteness as it pertains to the ways that Albanians have been othered as non-white but at the same time have sought European whiteness through multiple nation-building projects. In the third section I analyse contemporary local manifestations of whiteness that shape social relations between Albanians, Roma, and Balkan Egyptians, whereby Albanians are racialised as ‘white’ while Roma and Balkan Egyptians are racialised as ‘black’. Though the Balkan region is often considered a place of racelessness, I ultimately argue that racial logics and processes of racialisation are very present yet the ways that whiteness and blackness emerge must be historically and locally contextualised.

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On being marked and unmarked in a ‘raceless’ state
Sunnie Rucker-Chang

This chapter uses the interdisciplinary frames of cultural, media, and critical whiteness studies to explore how Serbs situate the Chinese – mostly racialising them as ‘perpetual foreigners’ (Frank Wu), via the categories of migrant, tourist, and student. Specifically, I question how these transient categories help maintain the distance of the Chinese population from the local category of ‘ours’ (‘naši’), which can subsume the local racialised categories of ‘black’ or ‘white’ but not the ‘perpetual foreignness’ of the Chinese. The novel phenomenon of Chinese migration in Serbia, a community that I once termed ‘transitory’ and a ‘vastly different Other’ has endured – in both rural and urban settings – for over twenty years. However, as filmmaker Tanja Brzaković notes, even after two decades of living together, Serbs and Chinese know nothing about each other. Considering this lack of mutual understanding, the chapter explores the significance and local meaning(s) assigned to a population that disrupts historical regional constructs of difference, particularly as the signifiers of ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’ have taken on new associations with China’s global rise. The Chinese population in Serbia has changed over time from canonically defined migrants, to middleman minority merchants, to an outward manifestation of the reach of Chinese power. The shifting Serbian views of Chinese populations can be understood, in part, through the lens of China’s relatively rapid development. As Chinese investment in infrastructure and business, migration, tourism, student populations, and cultural penetration (e.g. Confucius Institutes) has continued to increase, the racialisation of the Chinese has changed too.

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