Where do Roma belong in European societies?

Where do Roma belong in European societies?


– The Roma are the largest minority within the European Union
context, and in Europe in general. There are more Roma than
Danish or Swedish nationals in Europe. Just to give you an example
of the size of the population. But they’re spread in most of
the European member states. So they don’t have a concentration
in one specific state. They are a minority everywhere. The Roma have been in Europe
for hundreds of years. They are autochthonous
minorities in many ways. However, very often they
are constructed as Others. As internal Others, as the
“inner enemy,” in many cases. It’s very interesting to
observe how the Othering of Roma or other minorities
can be very much dated back to the time when, in the context of Europe and when the nation-states
were being formed and born, – so we’re talking
about the 19th century – the time in which the European nations were constructed as coherent, or in some cases homogeneous, or they were imagined as homogeneous. You have this group that were
not speaking the language, they would probably live in
a slightly different way, so in tents or in temporary accommodation, which were constructed as Other to this idealized image of the nation. In some cases, countries like Italy which were very weak geopolitically, they didn’t have the strength to construct an enemy from outside
because that would’ve been too dangerous. So the Roma served the
fairly easy-to-manipulate scapegoats for this national
identity being built and constructed at the time. When we look at the Roma in
terms of their legal status in the context of Europe, you have three main categories that may be useful to think about. One are the Roma nationals:
the Roma that have a passport in their country of residence. So in this case, you will have
the Manouche group in France, you have one in Germany as well. Then you have groups
like the Romanian Roma that travel extensively in
other European member-states. So in this case, they
are European citizens that exercise their rights
to freedom of movement. And the third group is made
of the non-EU nationals. They are often from former Yugoslavia. So in many cases, they would be refugees from the dissolution of Yugoslavia. So before, for example, the
dissolution of Yugoslavia, Roma, because they were
included in the constitution, that they were basically
included in the quota system – in some cases, they were basically allocated more middle class jobs – they become more educated,
they were included in the education system. And so you have journalists,
you have politicians, you have NGOs, you have a
middle class of Romani elite that developed over that period of time. And many of them, or sort of
the next generation of them, still play a role nowadays in the Romani political movement at the European level. But the time in which Yugoslavia broke up and the new states were formed, these new states,
Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia: They were not as keen as
Yugoslavia to give them the nationality of the new
country where they were born. In a sense, they used
the break-up as a way of getting rid of them. If you look, another country like Spain is the other case, which
is very interesting with the Gitanos communities, they have been living in
Spain for hundreds of years. And in some areas,
particularly in the South, near Granada, they have become almost
incorporated in the cultural imaginary of the country, with
the Flamenco, for example. That’s a Gitano style of music, of dance, but it’s also assumed as being Spanish. And you can see in some areas that basically they are fully integrated. Still you would have
an area of marginality, but they are still much better integrated than in most other countries. In many countries you will hear this idea, these stereotypes, that the
Roma don’t like education, and they don’t want to work, and this is why we have… in some cases, it might be true for some, but the way these stereotypes work is mostly as a way of
self-justifying the exclusion of some groups. So I don’t need to put any effort to promote their integration
because of their culture, they don’t want to go to school. And I have done work in Italy
with some local authorities that were relocating Roma groups far away from each other at
the very margins of Rome, for example. In areas which were kilometers away from the closest school, and then were providing some
kind of school bus service. And the kids everyday we
arriving at the school two hours after the
starting time of the class. There are reasons why we are
in the position we are now. And it’s not all or not at all linked to a cultural justification. The fact that they are living in camps and in encampments, which is actually true only for minority of the Roma, but the ones that are
more visible in a sense, has always been on one hand
a form of discrimination on the part of the the city of residents or the state of residents, the idea we’ve built camps
so they stay together and stay out of the way. On the other hand, the
camps, spaces like encampment become a place where they can construct a network of relationships, they can basically build
their own economies, they can basically survive at the margin of the roots of society, as
well, in terms of expectations: thinking about collecting scrap metal. The camp becomes a space
where it’s possible to be appropriated by the
communities at the margin and build their own strategies of survival on the basis of this marginality. This doesn’t mean that
we need to keep them. The idea would be to
promote a more equal society in which people have a
range of opportunities and then they can choose what to do. Very often, the economies
that we see developing in a space like a camp
are survival economies. It’s the lack of anything else available that leads people to live that way. If you think in terms of the language that the Romani communities use, there are very significant variations. There has been an attempt since the 1970s to harmonize the
languages in one language. In reality, if you go
to talk to real people, on the streets, in the camps, in houses, this diversity is still very much there. And often people cannot really
communicate to each other. Just to give an example, if you
have people from Kosovo who speak Romani and some called
the Kalderash from Romania: They won’t be able to talk to each other. So it’s not the language
that brings things together. so what is it? This is partly why within
the debate on people who have worked with Roma,
there is a discussion to understand these
minorities as the result of the marginalization of
a generation, a century, a specific group of the population that were the margin of society
or the margin of the city that then became a group, so it’s almost a “culture
of poverty” kind of story. Or is it a group which is
much more historically rooted in a specific migration that
came from the North of India of specific groups that
then spread as a diaspora over different countries, and they stopped at different points for
different lengths of time along a route that took them to Europe. And the variation in the
language is due to the fact that some groups stayed
for 200 years in Yugoslavia under the Ottoman Empire, and others instead went farther and went north and they
traveled to Europe. I also think it’s important
when we think about what the Roma brings to society is also the fact that
they are part of society. So in a sense, society is also the Roma. So it’s not something
that you act into it. In many places, the Roma
have lived as a community since before the country was even born.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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