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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Coloniality for Eastern Europe


Here is Die Presse the (supposedly Social Democratic-leaning) major newspaper of Austria, on the putative "costs" of eastward" expansion" of the EU . (Notice the borrowing of the term 'expansion' from military geopolitics, not even nodding to the EU's official language of "enlargement"). You got to admire the clarity of the language here. Not beating around the bush. 

To start with the title, it says: "Expansion: The Wild East Strikes Back."

The section subtitles more or less tell the story: 

"Bought Too Late, Too Expensive"


"In the Clinch of Politics"

"Eastern Europe Before Healing / Recovery".

Right. (I am resisting the urge to belabor the point that the three-centures-long modern history of eastern Europe offers nothing but situations just before "healing / recovery." And, somehow, it's not healed yet. Instead, what it offers is a variety of new and old forms of dependency, development of underdevelopment, and a totally obvious failure to "catch-up.")


Well, there is much, much to be said about all this. This time I'll just focus on the language of coloniality here. (For those curious of the history of the term, please consult Aníbal Quijano on The Coloniality of Power, and / or a brief encyclopedia entry discussing how coloniality relates to colonialism.) 

A decade and a half ago I conducted a graduate research seminar on this issue at Rutgers, and this is what my graduate students and I wrote about it then.

That e-book was an absolute first--and fully ignored. It received one, half-of-a-review. When the Hungarian edition was published as a special block of papers in the journal Replika (here is the link to my intro), I was treated in Hungary like slightly deranged discoverer-maniacs who go away to some faraway lands only to come back with an exotic and unknown (this time, in my case, I suppose mental) disease. 

At that time, at least in eastern Europe, pretty much everybody was fully convinced that, in the space of a decade or so, we will be totally and absolutely on par with Austria, not only in economic terms, but also in terms of being accepted as equal partners in a Great European Experiment in Friendship and Respect. And the rectification of centuries of "wrongs" in the Greater European Space, especially the wrongs of disrespect, repression and exploitation. And that there will be economic growth in Europe, east as well as west, south, north, etc. Haha.


Anyway, I am very grateful to Die Presse for their eloquence in providing such a poignant illustration, if only 15 years too late.

Coda for Hungarian readers, considering the relatively low level of complexity in the related "discussions" there. I hope it is clear that my point distinct from the current government's abuse of the notion of "colonialism" (thank God their ideologues have never heard of coloniality!) that underlies its concealed-neoliberal project, aiming to transform their current local business clients into a High Bourgeoisie at the expense of the most downtrodden sections of their society, destroying social peace, spewing a horrible 'race' venom that affects the Roma and potential immigrants the most. Understand this well: What the current government does adds an extra excuse to the old patterns of west European condescension and inferiorization vis-a-vis eastern Europe. How that is smart, escapes me. Maybe it helps them think that they are, after all, really equal (in being as racist, as nationalist and as neoliberal as their west European "counterparts.") I'm not sure. But it's not nice.

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cover page of the book

cover page of the book
image used for the cover design by Anannya Dasgupta