'Bad Gypsies' and 'Good Roma': Constructing Ethnic and Political Identities through Education in Russia and Hungary
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation seeks to unpack how the two dominant images--'bad Gypsies' and 'good Roma'--developed and are mobilized in formal and informal educational institutions in Hungary and Russia and how those are perceived by Roma/Gypsies themselves. The former ethnic category has evolved over centuries, since Gypsies were increasingly defined as the quintessential 'Other', associated with resistance to authority, criminality, lack of education and discipline, and backwardness. The latter image has been advanced over the last few decades to counter negative stereotypes latent in the `Gypsy' label. Various non-state actors are promoting a new image, that of proud, empowered, and educated 'good Roma'. Mobilization of both images is distinctly recognizable in schools--it is in formal and informal educational institutions where the 'bad Gypsy' image is most visibly sustained and reproduced, while these sites are also supposed to be indisputable tools of empowerment and positive identity building. Relying on approximately 12 months of fieldwork in Hungary and Russia, the study pursues three goals. First, it examines the origins, institutionalization, and deployment of ethnic labels used to categorize Roma. I show that two images, `bad Gypsies' and `good Roma that are contradictory in content, were reified and essentialized. Second, it investigates the mechanisms of imbuing Roma youth with normative values of these ethnic labels in formal and informal educational institutions through school instructions, curricular and extra-curricular activities, disciplinary practices, and discourse. Third, it assesses Roma response and techniques of coping to the given essentialized images about their group identity. Overall, the dissertation is composed of two sections: a historical and contemporary examination of Roma identity formation and ethnic labeling practices. I interrogate issues of nationhood, belonging, and identity politics surrounding the Roma minority by in depth study of identity formation and construction of exclusionary nationhood in Russia and Hungary. Any attempt to understand contemporary European political, economic, and social conditions cannot ignore the Roma, an issue that requires an urgent sustainable solution. Improving Roma living conditions and elimination of prejudice against Roma requires a holistic approach and a comprehensive understanding, which is the ambition that this study pursues.