Our paper addresses the role of asymmetry and centre-periphery dynamics in the interaction between intellectual fields in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. First, we draw attention to the problems involved in overstressing entanglement and hybridity in transnational intellectual history. Painting an excessively harmonious picture of European cultural space risks reproducing an all too familiar image of a borderless space of texts and ideas where everyone is able to participate on equal grounds. Second, while postcolonial studies have inspired us to analyze forms of dependency, we should also reflect on how far we can carry the analogy in the absence of formal domination. By focusing on the spatial and temporal hierarchies implicit in the ways intellectuals from the Nordic countries experienced and made use of marginality and backwardness, our paper presents a perspective on exclusion and inclusion, asymmetry and dependency, from within Europe.