"Gypsies to the camps!": Exclusion and marginalisation of Roma in the Czech Republic

Angus Bancroft*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Under Communism the Roma minority in the Czech Republic were subject to severe state directed assimilation policies. Since the end of the Cold War they have endured a combination of labour market exclusion and racially motivated violence. The apparent historical discontinuity between the Communists' strategies of assimilation and the current forms of exclusion and marginalisation is often explained by pointing to the social and economic upheaval caused by the transition to capitalism, or the resurgence of 'ancient ethnic hatreds'. When examining anti-Roma racism (or other examples of ethnic conflict) in the former Communist countries of Europe, commentators tend to regard it as signifying the backwardness of these nations. These perspectives ignore racism's modern aspect. In contrast this paper seeks to highlight some of the continuities between the situation of Roma today and their historical position. It uses Simmel's concept of 'the Stranger' as applied by Bauman to understand the ambivalent place of Roma in European modernity, at times subject to coercive assimilation, at other times on the receiving end of racial violence. It challenges narratives which attempt to Orientalise racism as the preserve of 'uncivilised and backward' nations or a white underclass. It seeks to put racism in its place as a part of European modernity and its deployment of assimilative or exclusionary strategies against 'Stranger' minorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-219
Number of pages14
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume4
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 1999

Keywords

  • Czech Republic
  • Gypsies
  • marginalisation
  • modernisation
  • racism
  • Roma
  • social exclusion
  • the Stranger

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