The racialization of Roma in the ‘new’ Europe and the political potential of Romani women [Enikő Vincze]

The article was prepared for the Special issue of the European Journal of Women’s StudiesThe New Europe: 25 Years after the Fall of the Wall, guest editors Barbara Einhorn and Kornelia Slavova, November 2014; 21 (4).  At the moment, the online vesrion of the article is available  at European Journal of Women’s Studies, November 2014 21: 435-442, doi:10.1177/1350506814548963 (http://ejw.sagepub.com/content/current).

The article is partially based on the analysis of “Roma politics” and “policies for Roma” conducted under the auspices of the SPAREX research.  

The formation of the ‘new’ Europe gave rise to many promises in what regards European Roma, including cultural recognition, human rights and social inclusion. At the same time, informed by neoliberal policies, it perpetuated and even increased the socio-economic disparities across and within Member States of the European Union (EU). In this context, Roma were racialised as an ‘inferior ethnic group’ associated with social problems or with the threat to ‘civilised’ Europe, blamed and criminalised for becoming (part of) a precarious class. This article argues that the politics of culture, rights and social inclusion undertaken in the name of Roma and at the same time defining them as ‘the Roma’ within the European Union, failed to address the systemic causes of social inequalities, exclusion and advanced marginality. It observes that the subject positions created for ‘the Roma’ by these discursive frames (i.e. non-territorial nation, transnational minority, citizens entitled to universal human rights, vulnerable group) are perverted by racism into ‘arguments’ about Roma as a different (meaning inferior) and sub-human species which does not have a nation(state) or a ‘mother country’, needs positive measures to act as ‘normal’ citizens, and cannot be integrated into the mainstream society because it ‘does not like to work’. Moreover, the paper discusses how this process of racialisation associates Roma with ‘East-European poverty’ and makes use of gendered ideologies. Finally it argues about the political potential of Romani women in the face of the racialisation of Roma as a manifestation of the racism underlying and justifying the neoliberal ‘new’ Europe.