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Abstracts of Organized Sessions

Roma/ Gypsies and public policies in the Iberian Peninsula


Olga Magano, Universidade Aberta / Open University – CEMRI/ Centre of Studies Of Migrations and Intercultural Relations -

Maria Manuela Mendes / Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade de Lisboa / Faculty of Architecture, University of Lisbon  – CIES / Centre Of Research and Sociology Studies  -

Ana Rita Costa, CIES / Centre of Research and Sociology Studies – ISCTE -

Liliana Moreira / Universidade Aberta / Open Universtity - CEMRI/ Centre of Studies Of Migrations and Intercultural Relations -

This panel aims to be a space for reflection and discussion around public policies carried out in Portugal and Spain that directly and indirectly have impacts on Roma/ Gypsies residents, families and individuals. It also welcomes works that present transnational studies focusing Iberian Roma/ Gypsies.

In the past three decades public policies have been implemented in these two countries with the aim of promoting social welfare for all, which resulted in the improvement of the living conditions of the people residing here. Alongside with the European Strategy for social integration of the Roma/ Gypsies, some of these measures, although most of them not specifically targeting Roma/ Gypsies families and individuals, have produced important effects, but still little known, on the life trajectories of these families and have had impacts on their culture and identity construction processes.

The links between the two countries and the known existing continuities between Portuguese and Spanish Roma/ Gypsies in conjunction with the recent constraints experienced by both nations make this discussion an opportunity to know more about the present lives of the Roma/ Gypsies in the two countries, its differences and similarities, and to compare existing and past policies and its impacts. Therefore, the panel seeks to inform about public policies and measures, as well as intervention strategies mobilised by NGOs and little known local or broader projects that had decisive effects on Roma/ Gypsies families and individuals lives. It particularly intends to explore possible continuities and contrasts and the ways public policies of the last 30 years can be related to Portuguese and Spanish Roma/ Gypsies present lives. Broader comparative reflexions about Iberian Roma/ Gypsies are also considered.

This panel will be open to contributions from academics from a wide variety of areas to communicate and discuss their research findings.

Critical approaches to Roma participation and empowerment

: Márton RÖVID and Bálint-Ábel BEREMÉNYI

The container notion of participation has powerfully penetrated policies, programmes and plans targeting or reaching out to Roma population. From the European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies to local interventions, ‘Roma participation’ has become a basic criterion and unavoidable keyword in project proposals. The main argument behind participation is the empowerment of the Roma: the two are supposed to reinforce each other. However, both concepts tend to be vaguely defined and poorly operationalised, their positive correlation is taken for granted, as well as their positive impact on individual or community development.

In the last two decades a sharp debate has emerged around the concepts of participation and empowerment[1]. For some authors[2], empowerment is a process through which people gain a critical understanding of their environment. Fetterman[3] claims that one possible way of achieving this critical view and understanding is to include subaltern populations in the evaluation of their supposed empowerment: "self-determination, defined as the ability to chart one's own course of life forms the theoretical foundation of empowerment evaluation.” Alsop and Heinsohn[4] defines empowerment as "enhancing an individual’s or group’s capacity to make choices and transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes”.

For Miraftab[5] the main issue is that participation and empowerment are often treated as elements independent of the structures of oppression, and simply processes by which programs foster individuals’ sense of worth and esteem. This individualization inherently depoliticizes the notion of empowerment, often reducing it to individual access to resources, and leaving the status quo unchallenged. The once subversive, emancipatory tools of activists "have now become tools of the trade for governments as well as for international financial establishments".

The panel expects papers that discuss the controversial relation between the discourse and the practice of Roma participation and empowerment. Theoretical, conceptual, methodological reflections as well as concrete case studies are solicited. Papers addressing the following questions are particularly welcome:

·         What are the social, economic, and political limits of empowering projects implemented by governments, companies, NGOs, churches, and other actors?

·         Under what conditions can have such projects transformative and emancipatory effects?

·         Who are the designers and the targets (or: the service providers and service users) of the participatory and empowering projects? Who are left out?

·         How can empowerment be operationalized and its success measured?

·         How to combine the struggle against racism, the promotion of democratic solidarity, and the emancipation of Roma?

[1] Cooke, B., & Kothari, U. (2001). Participation: The new tyranny? (B. Cooke & U. Kothari, Eds.). London - New York: Zed Books.; Frideres, J. (1992). A world of communities: Participatory research perspectives. Captus Pr.; Hickey, S., & Mohan, G. (2004). Participation: From  Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development. Zed books.; etc.

[2] Perkins, D. D., & Zimmerman, M. A. (1995). Empowerment theory, research, and application. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23(5), 569–579

[3] Fetterman, D. M. (1994). Empowerment evaluation. Evaluation Practice, 15(1), 1–15.

[4] Alsop, R., & Heinsohn, N. (2005). Measuring empowerment in practice: structuring analysis and framing indicators. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (3510)

[5] Miraftab, F. (2004). Making Neo-liberal Governance: The Disempowering Work of Empowerment. International Planning Studies, 9(4), 239–259.

Muslim Roma - Issues of Language and Identity 

Organizer: Hristo Kyuchukov, Free University of Berlin, Germany

The panel entitled "Muslim Roma - Issues of Language and Identity"  has two parts: I part The Muslim Roma in the Balkans and the II part Muslim Roma in West Europe. The panel has the goal to inform about new research finding among Muslim Roma. The I part of the panel is expected to include papers by MA Students from Free University of Berlin and Sofia University.

The Experience, Problems, and Romani Studies of Roma/Gypsies in Slovakia and former Czechoslovakia

Organizer: Eva Davidová

The location of this year’s annual meeting and conference of the Gypsy Lore Society in Bratislava makes a comprehensive review of the post-Second World War experience of the Roma population in Slovakia particularly appropriate.

Slovakia is furthermore especially important since its estimated 403,000 Roma are almost  8 % of the total population ( 5 mil.)and so in relative terms form one of the largest Roma minorities in any country. Slovakia is also distinctive for its high number of segregated settlements. Although nearly half of the Roma population live among the majority population, nearly one in five Roma still live in these segregated settlements, lying between one to seven kilometres distant from the nearest municipality.

The proposed Open Panel will cover the main historical periods in a variety of ways – drawing on historical, ethnographic, sociological, documentary and visual material.

     i/  The period of Communist rule (from 1945 until 1989)

The initial section will focus mainly on developmental changes occurring in the predominant sub-ethnic groupings which together constitute about 85% of all Roma in Slovakia – the Slovak and Hungarian “Rumungre “. While the Slovak Roma live mainly in Eastern Slovakia but also in Central Slovakia, the Hungarian Roma live in Southern and South-eastern Slovakia. The much smaller group of Oláh or Vlachike Roma were nomadic or semi-nomadic until February 1959, when they were forcibly settled by the Communist authorities. Now settled, they are largely to be found in the towns and districts of Komárno, Nitra and Prešov. During this period many Roma migrated to the Czech lands for work and better living conditions.

ii/  The Post-Communist period (from 1989 to the present day)

Apart from where they live these different groups and the sub-groups among them vary in their way of life and their position in society. Although older forms of Roma settlements still persist, particularly in the case of segregated settlements, many Roma now live in more modern homes – often on the outskirts of towns or in the suburbs. However there can be problems of co-existence between extended Roma families or different sub-groups or with the majority population. The existence of those with good secondary or even higher education is often forgotten in generalisations about Roma. Such people generally live amongst the wider population and have much higher employment levels than less educated Roma who are mostly without jobs. Opportunities for Roma were greatly affected by the division of former Czechoslovakia in 1993.

In spite of EU assistance since the late 1990s, the experience of most Roma has been negative, reflected in the sharp decline in their employment levels, educational difficulties, housing problems and worrying health status. Consequently significant numbers have migrated to Western Europe although motivations for their departure are disputed. EU governments are now required to implement plans to improve Roma inclusion but in spite of the availability of EU structural funds progress is disappointingly slow.

       iii/  Czech-  Slovak Romani Studies -   Where we got in the last decades?

This part of the discussion should be a presentation of the development of Romani Studies in the last 50-60 years from a point of view of prominent Romani scholars professionally connected with Slovakia. The main point of discussion would be the development of Romani studies connected with ethnographic, historical, cultural, anthropological, sociological and other social science disciplines.

All contributions in speeches and discussion too should be focused on several fundamental levels. First of all should be presented the most important achievements of the Romani studies in former Czechoslovakia and in Slovakia. Secondly, it is important to highlight the fundamental deficiencies and loopholes. Thirdly, we consider as very important to present subjective recommendations or preferences of authors on the thematic or conceptual focus and future development of Roma and Romani Studies.

Religion in Roma Studies.

Organizer: Tatiana Podolinska,  Institute of Ethnology SAS, Bratislava.

More scholars in Romani studies currently focus their attention to religion and religious movements operating among the Roma. In the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of 21st century many „traditional“ as well „nontraditional“ churches  devoted their missionary activities towards Roma. These religious movements often programmatically focus their attention to work with ethnic or socially marginalized groups and the character of their work has often social impact not only on their target groups but also on the majority society. Regarding their work with Roma we can speak about the religion in Roma studies from different perspectives, for instance:

 - are Roma traditions shaping Roma identity transformed after the affiliation towards the „new“ church (traditional or nontraditional)? Does the conversion mean „the end of Roma traditions“, or if not, does it bring about its significant redefinition?;

 - conversion and redefinition / transformation of Roma identity after conversion can lead to more articulate awareness of Roma ethnicity. In this concern some authors pointing nationalism and radicalism, enforced by revivalist discourses in new Roma congregations and churches;

 - social change seems to be related to religious change in many Roma communities. Can religion be viewed as a productive social tool for emancipation of ethnic and socially deprived groups, perhaps leading to their social inclusion?

 - one of the most interesting phenomena related to new religious movements is structural and membership stabilization often linked to relatively quick formation and decline of new congregations. The congregations are significantly bonded with the authority of charismatic leader and thus, leadership and authority in Roma religious community can be one of the key topics in this section.

 - religious conversion is crucially linked to individual transformation. This transformation can be analyzed from various perspectives: process of religious change on individual level (personal religious rise and fall); process of psychological/emotional management of life situations, or process of development of individual personal strategies conditioned by religious conversion.

 Pinpointing here just few of many potentential points of view for the prepared conference panel, the floor is open up for any new perspective and approach in the Roma studies dealing with the Roma and religion.