ERG SES G 05, Transition and Education
My story as an emergent scholar mirrors much of the turbulence of my country’s transition from communism to capitalism. This paper strives to capture what the turbulence of that transition has meant for official Bulgarian education policy at a rhetorical level and for Roma youth at the level of reality. Under both the old communist regime as well as the new neoliberal regime, we can identify a gap between the rhetoric of policy and the reality of the Roma experience in schools. Identifying this gap helps us recognize the ideological function of policy (Zizek, 2012). It also prompts us to consider whether or not the ideological shift from communism to neoliberal capitalism has changed either the ideological commitments expressed in educational policy or the reality of schooling for Roma students. For example, between 1992 and 2001 the rate of illiteracy among Roma in Bulgaria increased by 60.6 percent (Tomova, 2009). Does that sharp decline in literacy reflect a shift in the ideological commitments of educational policy, or does it reflect the realities of the ideological commitments of the austerity measures imposed on Bulgarian society by neoliberalism?
Much of the theoretical framework used in this paper grounds itself in Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s analysis of ideology. As a Lacanian, Zizek draws a distinction between “the real”/reality and the symbolic reality created by human beings to represent the real. He also claims that we find gaps in the symbolic order. These gaps correspond to areas of “the real” that the symbolic order either cannot or will not account for or admit. Ideology, then, functions to fill these gaps, covering over them so as to distort or deny the existence of something real lurking beneath the surface of the ideological filler. For Zizek, this usually means the denial or distortion of some fundamental or “real” antagonism. For my purposes in this paper, the antagonism at stake involves the historic conflict between Bulgarian society and its institutions and the Roma.
In order to shed light on this antagonism, this paper makes use of Louis Althusser’s discussion of the repressive state apparatus and the ideological state apparatus. According to Althusser, the state functions to serve the interests of the dominant group in society, and that group uses the state as an instrument for maintaining its dominance through both repressive and ideological means. I will apply these Althusserian concepts through an examination of how the state – under both communism and neoliberal capitalism – has functioned to maintain the subordination of Roma through repressive and ideological means, paying particular attention to how that subordination has been achieved through educational policy (ideology) and educational practice (repression). My framework will also be aided by Bourdieu’s concept of ‘symbolic violence’ where ideological domination as Bourdieu argues “ tends to take the form of a more effective, and in this sense more brutal, means of oppression...where the violence has become soft, invisible”(1992).
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