OF THE GYPSIES:
AND ETHNIC TRANSFORMATIONS IN POST-COMMUNIST SOCIETIES
5 - 23 July, 1999
Course Director: Michael Stewart
(University College London)
(University of Greenwich, London)
Sir Angus Fraser (Historian, London)
Victor Friedman (University of Chicago)
Zdenka Jarab (Charles University, Prague)
János Ladányi (University of Economics, Budapest)
Alaina Lemon (University of Michigan)
Judith Okely (University of Hull)
What is the course about?
Everyone knows that the problem of Roma/non-Roma
relations constitutes one of the most entrenched and difficult social problems
facing the post-communist societies. 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 has led to current
difficulties? Why are those who blame the Roma themselves missing the point?
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? What is the history of
the Nazi persecution of the Roma, and why has it been forgotten? Roma are
known by non-Roma as Gypsies, Zigeuner, Cigány: what is the effect
of outsidersí ideas about Gypsies on the Roma's own ideas of themselves?
Why do European societies find the idea of a nation without territory,
a culture 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 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 togeher with other poor people.
Students will learn that to understand Roma/non-Roma relations is to develp
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 ourselves and the societies we live
What will be the content of the course?
In order of appearance: Sir Angus Fraser,
author of The Gypsies, the standard history of the Roma, will explore the
mechanisms of Roma survival over 6 centuries. Ian Hancock, linguist and
leading Roma politician, will consider the implications of Indian origins
for Roma today. Victor Friedman, the foremost Romany linguist in the world,
who has long been actively involved in developing Romani as an official
language in Macedonia, will lecture on the nature of minority languages
and difficulties in standardisation of such languages. Thomas Acton, the
world's sole professor of Romani Studies, who has written about English
Gypsies for over thirty years, will explain the contrasts in Roma politics
in eastern and western europe. Zdenka Jarab, historian will show how Hapsburg
policies shape the experience of central European Roma today. Alaina Lemon,
the only academic to live with Russian Roma, will show how stereotypes
affect policy decisions and how Roma internalise or reject certain images.
Judith Okely, author of the controversial thesis that English Gypsy culture
is an indigenous, not a foreign culture, will introduce a speficifically
antropological theory of culture. Janos Ladanyi, renowned urban sociologist,
who has also been in the forefront of campaigns to prevent ghettoisation
in modern Hungary, will argue that Roma issues can best be treated as a
social, not an ethnic problem. Michael Stewart, the first academic (social
anthropoligist) to live with and write a monograph on east european Roma
will both provide the overall framework through the course and lecture
on variations and transformations in Roma cultures across the world.
When discussing Roma the tendency is
still to generalise and to homogenise. Through the wealth of documentary
evidence and the wide range of often conflicting opinions you will be introduced
to on this course, you will develop a sense of the variety in Roma cultures
and the reasons for this variety.
Who will benefit from the course?
Graduates of any discipline in the social
sciences and humanities whose work concerns them with economic and social
transformations in the region, ethnic conflict, racism, educational and
social policy. The course level will be advanced-introductory. While the
course is primarily aimed at encouraging young academics and those who
are thinking of taking up an academic career to integrate Roma issues in
their future research and teacing, it will also be of help to government
officials, NGO workers and others who deal with Roma professionally.
How will you be taught?
Each teacher will give an equal number
of lectures and seminars. During the seminars students will be expected
to make presentations and participate in round-table discussions. Most
evenings, therefore, students will have some preparatory work for the next
day. Some evenings films will be shown, on others discussions will be organised
with prominent activists. The course will include a short field trip to
introduce students to the variety of Roma experience in Hungary and projects
aimed to alleviate poverty. In the final week students will have the chance
to develop a short teaching or research programme incorporating the material
from the course. A reading pack will be sent out to students in advance
of the course and all students will be expected to have read and studied
the texts contained therein before the course.