Publication Date

January 2005

Journal or Book Title

American Anthropologist


The development and pollution of two rivers, the Danube and Tisza, have been the site and subject of environmental protests and projects in Hungary since the late 1980s. Protests against the damming of the Danube rallied opposition to the state socialist government, drawing on discourses of national sovereignty and international environmentalism. The Tisza suffered a major environmental disaster in 2000, when a globally financed gold mine in Romania spilled thousands of tons of cyanide and other heavy metals into the river, sending a plume of pollution downriver into neighboring countries. In this article, I examine the symbolic ecologies that emerged in the two moments of environmental protest as well as Hungarian activists’ reflections on the changing political ecology of the region in their discourses of “ecocolonialism” (ökógyarmatosítás) and “wild capitalism” (vadkapitaliszmus).