Course date

9 July - 27 July, 2001
Application deadline
15 February, 2001
Course Director(s): 

Michael Stewart

University College London, UK / Open City Docs Festival in London, UK/ Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Gyorgy Csepeli

Department of Sociology, Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), Budapest, Hungary

Victor Friedman

Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago, United States of America

Nicolae Gheorghe

Academy of Sciences, Bucharest, Romania

Iren Kertesz Wilkinson

Sociology and Anthropology, University of Hull, United Kingdom

Katalin Kovalcsik

Institute of Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Janos Ladanyi

Sociology, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary

Alaina Lemon

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States of America

Yaron Matras

Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, University of Manchester, UK

Andzrej Mirga

Jagellonian University, Cracow, Poland

Judith Okely

IGS Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University, UK
It is common knowledge that the problem of Roma/non-Roma relations constitutes one of the most entrenched and difficult social problems facing post-communist societies in Eastern Europe. But why should this be? Often the Roma are blamed for their own difficulties. This course will challenge you to think more broadly about the Roma and the societies they live in. It will pose and answer questions like:
  • What is it about eastern European and former Soviet Union societies and their histories that have led to current difficulties? Why are those who blame the Roma themselves missing the point? What can we learn from a comparative sociology of marginalisation?
  • In what senses are the Roma a unitary ethnic group? What difference does it make if they are not? How did Roma populations preserve their identities and ways of life over the past six hundred years? Romani language is arguably a quintessential feature of Romani identity, although this is not as simple a matter as might first appear since there are groups who identify as Romany without speaking Romani. How does an understanding of the structure of Romani aid understanding cultural and identity debates at national and transnational level? Roma are known by non-Roma as Gypsies, Zigeuner, Cigány: what is the effect of outsiders’ ideas about Gypsies on the Roma's own ideas of themselves? Is there a unity to Romany music across Europe and how may the elite musicians contribute to the development of Romany culture more generally?
  • Why do European societies find the idea of a nation without territory, a people that seems more mobile than others, so threatening? Is there a racialisation of poverty in post-communist societies and what political measures can be taken against this? What is the history of the Nazi persecution of the Roma, and why has it been largely forgotten? What forms of Roma politics have emerged across Europe and what do they offer the Roma today?
Students will learn how Roma issues cannot be treated in isolation as the problem of one ethnic group and yet how, at the same time, Roma cannot just be lumped together with other poor people. Students will learn that to understand Roma/non-Roma relations is to develop a deeper (and essential) understanding of their own societies.
As the area of the world with the largest percentage of Roma, Central and Eastern Europe and fSU provides a testing ground for understanding this often misunderstood people. And yet scant academic research is conducted on issues relating to Roma and their presence is hardly felt in the academic curricula of the region (outside of criminology courses). Bringing together world class scholars in the field, this course will show how it is possible to conduct important and productive research in this area, how to integrate Roma issues into teaching programmes, and how a richer and deeper understanding of Roma changes ones perception not just of 'Gypsies' but of non-Roma and the societies we all live in.