Decolonizing the City? Traversing Urbanscapes in the World-Systemic Transperipheral Histories of Socialist Hungary and the Global South

Lumumba Street. Nehru Coast. Havana Housing Estate. Places we pass by, places past in Budapest. After 1989, the ‘return to Europe’ resulted in the neoliberal ‘whitening out’ of the Hungarian memories of socialist era anti-colonial solidarities to the Third World. The recent upheaval around the George Floyd incident in summer 2020 sparked an unprecedented spree of political debates in Hungary about racism, Black Lives Matter, the legacies of colonialism and decolonialism. This largely Western-centric political discourse focused on colonial memory, collections and monuments. “We never had colonies”, “we never held slaves” – this dominant exceptionalism still continues to ignore Hungarian historical contributions to colonialism and decolonization. My talk argues that against the Eurowhite ignorance of the Westcentric Hungarian left we need a world-systemic approach to decipher the ‘transperipheral’ relations within the Hungarian semiperipheral world-systemic integration into global capitalism. I look at socialist era exchanges between Hungary and the decolonized Global South: how guest workers, students, architectural and development projects shaped urban environments and social memory. Based on our Transperiphery Movement exhibition project (, my analysis aims to contextualize memory, knowledge and materiality within the structural conditions of global economic cycles: from the 1960s–1970s expansionist boom era of infrastructure and housing construction as well as export mobilities to the 1980s global debt crisis to see how ultimately the capitalist pressures of competition, growing dependency on foreign currency and loans and the widening gap in the uneven exchange in exports led to the breakdown of these relations and the 1989 system change.