The focus of this article is on two Czech and Slovak films, My Friend Fabián (Můj přítel Fabián, 1955) and Gypsy (Cigán, 2011). While the former emerged in the 1950s, in the period of socialist industrialisation, the latter was released in the period of post-socialist consolidation of capitalism. Theoretically this article relies on a mix of approaches from film studies, social anthropology, post-colonial studies and archival research. The central research question is how cinematic representation of Roma were approached in the past and how they have changed over time. The film My Friend Fabián is replete with colonial tropes of uninhibited dancing, singing and exotica stereotypes and depicts imaginary Roma as incompetent individuals who are subject to the paternalistic care of the White socialist functionaries. At the same time this film presents a viable model for Roma integration and social advancement via education and full-fledged integration into the working class. In contrast, the film Gypsy is much more respectful towards Roma, contemporary performers and characters are real Roma and their film destinies are realistic. But the world that surrounds film characters is the world of total racial exclusion, which offers no hope and no prospects whatsoever for Roma and their social advance.
Antigypsyism has been frequently said to be a racist ideology. However, although some studies have engaged with the ‘racist’ component of the thesis, almost no work has been done in terms of specifying what ideology is and how a certain conception of it can enhance the understanding of antigypsyism both as a concept and empirical phenomenon. This paper explores the potential of the Lacanian theory of ideology as exemplified by Slavoj Žižek for developing antigypsyism research. Overcoming the problem of false consciousness, Žižek’s conception offers an analytical framework that allows re-examining and elaborating on certain issues from the perspective which weaves social and psychic realities without falling into the traps of psychological reductionism. To illustrate this, this paper presents a Žižekian analysis of three issues that correspond to different aspects of the antigypsyist phenomenon identified via ethnographic research among the non-Roma inhabitants of a declining neighbourhood with a significant Roma presence in Czechia. The issues are called envy, corruption and ‘hard racism’.
The author of the study presents a micro-historical study of a family of Vlach Roma (Lovára) of western Slovakian origin, who were one of the few Romani groups still on the move in the mid-1950s and who in the late 1950s were forced to settle in the towns of Louny and Žatec in north-western Bohemia. Against this background the author focuses on some aspects of the Czechoslovak assimilation policy of the 1950s regarding ‘itinerant Gypsies’, designed to limit their mobility, which is represented mainly by the implementation of the Law on the Permanent Settlement of Itinerant Persons (No. 74/1958 Coll.). Using a combination of oral history methods involving Vlach Romani narrators and of archival research, the author clarifies some aspects of the local process of the implementation of the above-mentioned law and of selected impacts of the registration of travelling and semi-travelling people in February 1959. The forced sedentarization which occurred in the two localities under study is presented in the context of the regime of state socialism and the policies of central as well as local authorities towards so-called ‘travelling Gypsies’ in the late 1950s.
This paper discusses the outcomes of power asymmetries in Slovak municipalities with Roma population and presents examples how local Roma leaders resist the non-Roma dominance by active participation in local elections. Presenting data from field research and long-term repeated observations, the paper shows successful strategies of elected Roma mayors who disrupt the usual perception of the Roma as objects of decision-making process and passive recipients of various policies. In these paternalistic beliefs Roma have never been seen as actors who can control resources, who could hold the political power and who could decide how to use the resources. Although the Roma have penetrated the power structures of many municipalities, they are not able to wipe out invisible ethnic boundaries, or, at least, to soften and disrupt them. However, as the text illustrates, it seems that the political power asymmetries in a significant number of municipalities are being balanced, nevertheless, the symbolic dominance and symbolic power of non-Roma still persists.
This paper explores social mobilities and trajectories in relation to particular mechanisms of subcontracting and of unequal distribution of capitals in the emerging field of EU funded projects for poor and socially excluded populations in Europe. It discusses some of the struggles for possible mobilities and its limits amidst continuing production and reproduction of privileges, disadvantages and structural orders in these project-cum-policy worlds constraints. By examining a particular case of a large-scale and multi-sited project and other similar project schemes, described by some of its proponents as one of the most ‘participatory’ projects for Roma in Europe, the article illustrates particular mechanisms of power and knowledge reproduction that facilitates some kinds of mobilities while also reproducing certain constraints and limits on these possibilities (for some subjects and some social trajectories). It develops an ethnographic critique of situated and nesting hierarchies of management and brokerage leading to reproduction of particular setups, privileges, unequal economic distribution and (mis)recognitions of capitals, which allows for particular emergence of particular kinds of contested ‘expertise’ in the uneven field of so-called ‘Roma inclusion’.
This article critically compares Roma experience of the key role of employment in the period of Communism with that during the following two decades. It draws on my experience as an ethnological researcher from 1969 onwards and also later as an investigator evaluating Roma inclusion programmes for the European Commission in countries seeking membership of the European Union. It comes to the depressing conclusion that the majority of Roma remain largely excluded from mainstream society in spite of their own considerable efforts to improve their economic and social standing, as well as various initiatives of the European Union and NGOs. This situation poses a threat not only to Roma themselves but to the stability of the countries in which they live.