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The Romani Movement

The Romani Movement: Minority Politics and Ethnic Mobilization in Contemporary Central Europe

Peter Vermeersch
Series: Ethnopolitics
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Romani Movement
    Book Description:

    The collapse of communism and the process of state building that ensued in the 1990s have highlighted the existence of significant minorities in many European states, particularly in Central Europe. In this context, the growing plight of Europe's biggest minority, the Roma (Gypsies), has been particularly salient. Traditionally dispersed, possessing few resources and devoid of a common "kin state" to protect their interests, the Roma have often suffered from widespread exclusion and institutionalized discrimination. Politically underrepresented and lacking popular support amongst the wider populations of their host countries, the Roma have consequently become one of Europe's greatest "losers" in the transition towards democracy.

    Against this background, the author examines the recent attempts of the Roma in Central Europe and their supporters to form a political movement and to influence domestic and international politics. On the basis of first-hand observation and interviews with activists and politicians in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, he analyzes connections between the evolving state policies towards the Roma and the recent history of Romani mobilization. In order to reach a better understanding of the movement's dynamics at work, the author explores a number of theories commonly applied to the study of social movements and collective action.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-678-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-ix)
    Peter Vermeersch
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    The collapse of communism and the process of state building that ensued in the 1990s have highlighted the existence of significant minorities in many European states, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. In this context, the growing plight of the biggest minority in the region, the Roma (Gypsies), has been particularly salient. Like no other ethnic label in Central and Eastern Europe today, the name “Roma” brings to mind dramatic images of mass unemployment, poverty, ill health, discrimination, and social exclusion. This is true even in parts of the region that are now generally considered to have successfully transformed themselves...

  7. Chapter 1 Identities, Interests, and Ethnic Mobilization
    (pp. 12-44)

    This chapter has two objectives. First of all, it will set the general context of this study by reviewing some of the most important current descriptive literature on the Roma. In order to create an ethnic movement, organizations and individual activists need to specify their ideas on two crucial components of political action: identity and interests. With regard to the Roma, it may therefore be asked: What is Romani identity? And what issues should Romani activists try to place on the public policy agenda? These are questions that have plagued many activists consistently. Later in this book, I will examine...

  8. Chapter 2 The Development of Minority Policies in Central Europe
    (pp. 45-101)

    I spoke to Aladár Horváth for the first time in the spring of 1999. Since the late 1980s, Horváth has been one of the most prominent and one of the most controversial young Romani activists in Hungary. During the final months of the communist regime, he successfully led one of the first protest actions against the residential segregation of Roma (the Anti-Ghetto Committee in Miskolc) and co-founded the first independent Romani organization in Hungary (Phralipe). In 1990, at the age of twenty-six, he was elected as an MP for the Alliance of Free Democrats (SzDSz) and gained a seat in...

  9. Chapter 3 Ethnic Politics from Below
    (pp. 102-149)

    After 1989, the spectrum of potential sites for political action on the basis of Romani identity in Central Europe broadened considerably. One way in which activists hoped to find public support for their claims was through establishing ethnically based political parties. Romani political parties were seen by many as organizational sites that should be able gain a position at the forefront of the Romani movement; through party politics activists believed they could not only make unambiguous assertions about their ethnic basis—and, in this way, nurture solidarity among Romani communities—but could also make clear that their goals were inherently...

  10. Chapter 4 The Power of Framing
    (pp. 150-183)

    “In a provocative formulation,” writes Jane Jenson, “we might say that opportunities do not exist until perceived, interests do not exist until defined, and constituencies do not exist until named” (Jenson 1998: 5). Also other movement scholars have recently pointed out that opportunities, interests, discontent, resources, etc. are not simply “out there” in the external world, but have to be cognitively perceived, constructed, defined, communicated, and mediated into public discourses, that is, “framed,” to become a basis for collective action (Koopmans and Statham 2000: 35).

    When activists want to form a movement they have to deal with matters connected to...

  11. Chapter 5 International Responses
    (pp. 184-212)

    In the summer of 2003, a remarkable conference took place in Budapest. Prime ministers and government representatives from eight Central and Eastern European countries gathered in Hungary’s capital to meet with Romani activists and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations. The topic of discussion was the “future of the Roma in an expanded Europe.” The Hungarian government hosted the conference; the World Bank and the Open Society Institute were the main sponsors. The event followed a call that had been put forward by international financier George Soros, the chairman of the Open Society Institute. The main purpose was to launch the...

  12. Chapter 6 The Romani Movement in Theoretical Perspective
    (pp. 213-230)

    In the first chapter of this book I outlined the dominant theoretical approaches to ethnic mobilization in the current literature and described how the examination of different aspects of ethnic protest animated authors to develop different models of explanation. I also argued that the complex “political process” model represented a viable and preferable alternative to models that assigned weight to only one factor, in particular those that singled out either culture, relative deprivation, or elite competition as an isolated causal factor. The general tenet of the political process approach to ethnic movements is that the prospects of ethnic mobilization are...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 231-238)
  14. References
    (pp. 239-256)
  15. Index
    (pp. 257-261)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 262-262)