'Too Poor and Alien. Too Educated and Internationally Connected'. Antiziganist Populism and Roma Counter-Discourses

Social Justice
Social Movements
Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Comparative Perspective
Council of Europe
Political Activism
Jan Selling
Södertörn University
Jan Selling
Södertörn University

Recent studies acknowledge the atavist character of Nordic populism mobilizing against "Gypsy beggars" (Kaveh 2015; Selling 2013 and 2015; Barker 2017). These discourses reactivate old images of Roma, Sinti and related groups as being ”workshy” and ”parasiting” and are, as have they also previously in history, being used to attract to certain concepts, such as nationalism or distract from certain topics (Wippermann 2015), such as non-discrimination, human rights, social justice etc. This function has previously in history also been inherent in the concept of antisemitism, which due to the selective process of de-nazification to a larger degree than antiziganism has been ruled out. Another similarity between antiziganism and antisemitism is the trope “damned if you do, damned if you don´t”: the too poor (the “Betteljuden” / the “beggars”) are described as a a threat as do the wealthy out-group members and when Roma get educated, integrated or claim equal rights, the populist reacts with secondary antiziganism and conspiracy theories (Selling 2015; Hancock 2010). These structural similarities become obvious, when we compare the Nordic ”beggar´s debates” with the recent attacks of the Orbán-government against the development of a Roma higher education access program at the Central European University in Hungary, which is said to be ”too international”, ”too multicultural”, “too foreign”. (Hungarian Weekly 2017). This paper aims at measuring these preliminary general observations against the reality of antiziganist populism as mapped by the ODIHR/OSCE (forthcoming 2017). Further, it intends to map the counter-discourses against antiziganist populism as expressed by Romani activists in the Nordic countries, Germany, Hungary, Romania, the UK, Spain, France and Poland. The source material for the Romani counter-discourses is the curated interviews and contextualizing essays of the Civil Rights Section of the Digital Archive of the Roma, of which I am myself a curator, together with Thomas Acton, Anna Mirga and Angela Kozce (https://blog.romarchive.eu/).

Hancock, Ian (2010) Danger. Educated Gypsy!
Hungarian Weekly (2.2.2017) “Orbán, Soros Discussed Future of Central European University”
Kaveh, Chalak, “Antiziganism in Norway: Comparison of the Interwar
Period and Today'”, in: Selling et al (2015), Antiziganism. What´s in a Word
ODIHR/OSCE (forthcoming 2017) “Confronting Anti-Gypsyism. The Role of Political Leaders in Countering Discrimination, Racism, Hate Crimes, and Violence against Roma and Sinti Communities, High-level meeting in Berlin 7. September 2016.”
Selling, Jan “The Conceptual Gypsy. Reconsidering the Swedish case and the General”, in: Selling et al (2015), Antiziganism. What´s in a Word
Wippermann, Wolfgang (2015) “The Longue Durée of Antiziganism as Mentality and Ideology”, in: Selling et al (2015), Antiziganism. What´s in a Word
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