07 SES 06 A, A Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 (Part 1): Theoretical Perspectives on Education and Policy Discourses
Symposium to be continued in 07 SES 07 A
This paper is a critical evaluation of international educational initiatives aimed at Roma youth empowerment, their effects on Roma identity-formation, in-group dynamics, and Roma—non-Roma relationship. The paper is based on data collected through participant observation in 2012-13 in Hungary. I studied formal education in elementary schools located in two sites: a town near the capital with an adjacent impoverished Roma settlement, and a town in Southern Hungary with several Roma villages nearby. Additionally, I examined non-formal educational projects, with the purpose of empowerment, integration and identity-building, in local community centers offering after-school programs. I also conducted a survey in one settlement with questions regarding identity and school experience. The study relies on interpretivist ontology and ethnographic data-collection methods, attending to: 1) “hidden transcripts” (Scott 1990) or covert ways of resisting; 2) negotiation of ethnic identities (Silverman 1988) and performance “as a specific logic of interaction” (Wedeen 2009, 77; Wedeen 1999); 3) social construction of reality (Schatz 2009; Berger and Luckmann 1967); 4) meaning-making and differences in meaning attributed to the same concept (Emerson et al. 1995; Yanow and Schwartz-Shea 2006); 5) the role of researcher, allowing for reflexivity (e.g. Emerson et al. 1995; Schatz 2009; Shehata 2006). Juxtaposing state-led formal educational practices with non-formal education, promoted by international actors, I argue that two essentialized ethnic images evolved: ‘bad Gypsy’ and ‘good Roma’. The image of ‘bad Gypsy’ evolved over centuries, since Gypsies were defined as the quintessential ‘Other’, associated with resistance to authority, criminality, and backwardness. The image of ‘good Roma’ was advanced to counter negative stereotypes latent in the ‘Gypsy’ label, and resulting educational initiatives intensified in the last decade—the timeframe of this study. Various non-state actors are promoting this new image: that of proud, empowered, and educated ‘good Roma’. Mobilization and occasional clashing of the two images are distinctly recognizable in educational settings. This study investigates the mechanisms of imbuing Roma youth with normative values of these ethnic labels through school instruction, curricular and extra-curricular activities, disciplinary practices, and discourse. In addition, I assess responses and techniques of Roma youth coping with the essentialized images. A central element is an evaluation of unintended consequences of conflicting discourse on identity: 1) increasing disconnect between the ‘good Roma’ and ‘bad Gypsies’; 2) the evident aspiration to define Roma culture and potentially standardize the language contribute to a false competition between various Roma subgroups and reifies Roma identity.
Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. 1967. The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Penguin books. Emerson, R.M., R.I Fretz, and L.L. Shaw. 1995. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Schatz, Edward. 2009. Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. Scott, James. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990. Shehata, Samer. 2006. Ethnography, Identity, and the Production of Knowledge. In Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn, edited by Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, 244-263. New York: M.E.Sharpe. Silverman, Carol. 1988. Negotiating "Gypsiness": Strategy in Context . American Folklore Society 101(401) 261-275. Wedeen, Lisa. 1999. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria . Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Wedeen, Lisa. 2009. Ethnography as Interpretive Enterprise. In Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power , edited by Edward Schatz, 75-94. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Yanow, Dvora, and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea. 2006. Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn . New York: M.E. Sharpe.
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