ON-LINE COURSE ON ROMANI CULTURE FOR THE STAFF OF THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
“ROMA(NI) PAST – EUROPE’S FUTURE. WHY EMBRACING EU’S LARGEST ETHNIC MINORITY MATTERS”
EUROPEAN ROMA INSTITUTE FOR ARTS AND CULTURE (ERIAC)
MAY 21, 2021
10.00 – 17.00 (CET)
On May 21, 2021, ERIAC had the pleasure to deliver an online course for the staff members of the European Commission.
Context and objectives
The Roma (commonly referred to as “Gypsies” which is considered an ethnic slur) have been part of the European and national histories and cultural landscapes for over 700 years. Today, the Roma constitute the biggest ethnic minority in Europe with some 10 million citizens in the EU, and a global diaspora of over 15 million people. Yet despite their centuries-old presence, the Roma remain largely unknown to majority societies. As a people, the Roma are mostly thought of and treated as a social problem, perceived through the prism of marginalization, exclusion and poverty. Moreover, the Roma today are the most stigmatized and the least accepted minority group in the EU; diverse manifestations of antigypsyism – the specific form of racism against the Roma people – are a regrettable feature of daily lives of Roma in Europe. On the other hand, however, the Roma remain a highly resilient and creative population whose diverse contributions to European social, cultural, economic, political, artistic, and even linguistic fields are yet to be acknowledged and embraced.
This online training course provided a brief overview of Roma history and culture as a point of departure to reflect on the social, political, cultural, economic and environmental importance of positioning Roma at the core of EU’s public debates regarding our societal futures. The course specifically tailored for the European Union Institutions staff members explored the difficult, sensitive or contentious issues related to Roma and antigypsyism, and help identify and incorporate human rights concerns into their own work.
Content of the course
The training built on scholarship produced in the framework of the Bavarlipe Roma Online University, to reflect most recent and influential academic discussions in the field of Romani Studies. The Barvalipe Roma Online University, created by ERIAC in partnership with the Central European University (CEU), is an online educational platform where Roma and non-Roma can access knowledge about the Roma identity(ies), history(ies) and culture(s) thorough a collection of high-quality lectures delivered by leading Roma scholars on topics ranging from the Roma Holocaust to Roma cultural productions.
The course comprised of two parts:
- the first part offered with a brief overview of Roma history and culture;
- the second part of the course provided elements of reflection on the social, political, cultural, economic and environmental importance of positioning Roma at the core of EU’s public debates regarding our societal futures.
To create a dynamic and participatory learning space, each segment of the course included a lecture as well as at least thirty-minutes of discussion. The course relied on audio-visual materials to provide more engaging resources and illustrate the discussion. The course was delivered by a group of experienced Roma scholars, with relevant expertise in the field, including knowledge of the most-recent discussions in Romani studies as well as most-recent Roma-related EU developments. Colleagues of the Unit Non-Discrimination and Roma Co-ordination, European Commission DG Justice and Consumers moderated the day
10:00 – 10:10 Opening remarks by European Commissioner for Equality Helen Dalli
10:10 – 11:30 “Introduction to Romani history and identity” by Dr Adrian Marsh
Who are the Romani people? Where do they come from? How can we understand the complexity of Romani and Traveller identities and cultures throughout Europe and the world? In this segment, the participants will be given a brief historical overview of Romani and Traveller history, from their departure from the Indian lands, their sojourn in the mediaeval Byzantine Empire, their diaspora throughout early modern Europe, the experience of ethnic exclusion, marginalisation and extermination in the modern period, and the communities today.
(Thirty-minutes of presentation, followed by twenty-minutes of group discussion, twenty-minutes of small group work based upon a pre-designed Romani history ‘factsheet’, followed by questions and answers for ten minutes.)
11:30 – 13:00 “Roma culture – Europe’s heritage” by Timea Junghaus
Centuries of presence of Roma in Europe also translates into multifaceted contributions to European and national cultural landscapes. From visual arts to music, from crafts to fashion, the Roma have contributed to the richness of European cultures, from folklore to contemporary arts. In this segment, the participants will discuss multiple contributions and achievements of Roma as part of the European cultural heritage.
(60 min lecture + 30 min discussion)
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 – 15:00 “Antigypsyism in theory and practice – unpacking different dimensions of racism against Roma communities” by Dr Iulius Rostas
Antigypsyism is a specific type of racism against Roma, a phenomenon which is deeply ingrained into majority perceptions and institutions. In this segment, the participants will understand the diverse manifestations of antigypsyism and will learn about different strategies of working against it. Specific examples will be provided to show the multilevel and complex character of antigypsyism in daily lives, media, public institutions, among others. Historical and contemporary stereotypes will be examined and deconstructed in dialogue with the participants.
(30 min lecture + 30 min discussion)
15:00 – 16:00 “From Roma Resistance to Roma Agency” by Dr Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka
What are the strategies employed by Roma to deal with diverse manifestations of antigypsyism they face in their daily lives? How are the Roma themselves becoming agents of change in their own communities and the society at large?
Recounting the story of the Roma Uprising in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp during WWII will be a starting point to reflect on the history of social, cultural and political resilience developed by Roma in response to the historically hostile social environments.
This segment of the course will discuss Roma Resistance strategies by providing specific examples, raging from political activism, civic participation, Roma cultural movement, as well as Roma youth activism, Roma women’s movement and the struggle of the LGBTIQ Roma people.
(30 min lecture + 30 min discussion)
16:00 – 17:00 “Why improving the situation of Roma matters for EU’s future” by Dr Ismael Cortés
What is the situation of Roma communities in today’s Europe? What are the most burning issues and strategies for improving the situation? What are the most common challenges for paving the way towards equality and justice for Roma? What are some of the biggest misconceptions regarding the Roma in EU today? In this segment, the participants will receive a detailed overview of the current situation of Roma communities in the EU and candidate countries and will be presented with an overview of good practices.
(30 min lecture + 30 min discussion)
Dr Adrian Marsh is a Researcher in Romani Studies at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII). He is of Welsh Romani-Traveller origins and works with Romani, Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK, Sweden, Turkey and Egypt as well as in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. He gained a First-Class Honours degree in Eastern European History, School of Slavonic & East European Studies (University College London) and won the Andrew Ferguson Memorial Prize for his final-year dissertation on royal women and power in the early modern Ottoman Empire, an MA in South East European studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 1998 where his dissertation on identity, ethnicity and the Kurdish rebellion of 1926 was awarded a distinction, and a PhD in Romani Studies from the University of Greenwich, London for his thesis, ‘No Promised Land: History, Historiography and the Origins of the Gypsies’ (2008). Dr Marsh has taught Romani Studies at the University of Greenwich (London); Malmö University College, Lund University, Södertörns University College, the Royal Technical University [KTH] (Sweden); the American University in Cairo (Egypt); Istanbul Bilgi University and the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (Turkey). He currently lives and works in Istanbul, where he runs the international Romani Studies Network (iRSN), which he founded in 2001. He is editor of the (2006) volume, Gypsies and the Problem of Identities: Contextual, Constructed and Contested, [with Strand, E.], London & Istanbul: I B Tauris; Romani Pentecostalism: Gypsies and Charismatic Christianity, Marsh, A. & Thurfjell, D. [eds.], Frankfurt, Oxford, New York: Peter Lang GmbH, (2012).
Tímea Junghaus is an art historian and contemporary art curator. She is Executive Director of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, appointed in September 2017. Previously, she was Research Fellow of the Working Group for Critical Theories at the Institute for Art History (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2010 – 2017). She has researched and published extensively on the conjunctions of modern and contemporary art with critical theory, with particular reference to issues of cultural difference, colonialism and minority representation. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Theory, the Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest. In recognition of her curatorial activities, Junghaus received the 2008 Kairos – European Cultural Prize from the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. Her curatorial works include the Roma component of the ‘Hidden Holocaust’ exhibition in the Budapest Kunsthalle (2004); ‘Paradise Lost – the First Roma Pavilion’, at the 52nd Venice Contemporary Art Biennale (2007); the Archive and Scholarly Conference on Roma Hiphop (2010), The Romani Elders and the Public Intervention for the Unfinished Memorial to the Sinti and Roma, Murdered Under the National Socialist Regime (1933 – 1945), within the frame of the 7th Berlin Biennale (2012); the (Re-)Conceptualizing Roma Resistance exhibition and education program, in Hellerau (Dresden, 2015) and the Goethe Institute (Prague, 2016). She is the curator of the Visual Arts Section for RomArchive – Digital Archive of the Roma, funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes (2015-2018). Timea Junghaus was the founding director (2013 – 2017) of Budapest’s Gallery8 – Roma Contemporary Art Space (https://www.gallery8.org); the winner of the 2014 Catalyst Contemporary Art Award (of Tranzit Hungary) and the 2014 Otto Pankok Prize awarded by the For Roma Foundation, of German writer and Literature Nobel Laureate, Günter Grass.
Dr Iulius Rostas is currently Visiting Professor at CEU’s Romani Studies Program. He previously served as Chair of Romani Studies and Assistant Professor at Central European University in Budapest (August 2016 – July 2019). He has been an Affiliated Fellow with the CEU Institute for Advanced Studies, a Senior Fellow with the Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives Office, and Visiting Lecturer at the Corvinus University (Budapest). He has worked for the Open Society Foundations, the European Roma Rights Center and the Romanian government and consulted with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Bank, the European Commission, and the Roma Education Fund. Dr Rostas published A Task for Sisyphus: Why Europe’s Roma Policies Fail (Budapest: CEU Press, 2019) and edited Ten Years After – A History of Roma School Desegregation in Central and Eastern Europe (Budapest: CEU Press, 2012). In 2011 he published Social Inclusion or Exclusion: the Rights of Persons Living with HIV in Moldova (Moldova: Cartier Publishing, 2011). He has published articles and book chapters on Roma participation, Romani identity, Roma school desegregation, the Romani movement, and civil society.
Dr Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka is an anthropologist and a Roma activist, born in 1985 in Cracow, Poland. She earned her Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in 2016. She holds an MA in European Integration from UAB and an MA in Comparative Studies of Civilizations from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (UJ). She is the author of policy evaluations, reports, and articles, and is the co-editor of the Education for Remembrance of the Roma Genocide: Scholarship, Commemoration and the Role of Youth (Libron, 2015) and Re-thinking Roma Resistance throughout History: Recounting Stories of Strength and Bravery (ERIAC, 2020). She has been an employee, member, founder, and collaborator of numerous Roma organisations in Poland and Spain. From 2008 to 2012 she was the European project coordinator at the Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia (FAGIC). From 2013 to 2015 she was an Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives Fellow, conducting a comparative study of the Roma associative movements in various countries of Latin America and Europe. From 2015 to 2017 she was the coordinator and curator of the Academic Section (a.k.a. Roma Civil Rights Movement Section) in the RomArchive – Digital Archive of the Roma. Between 2017-2018 she was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of the Romani Studies Program at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. She has served as the Deputy Director of ERIAC since January 2018.
Dr Ismael Cortés is a Congressman at Spanish Parliament since 2019. He is a lecturer, policy analyst and a political philosopher who holds a double academic position as a part-time lecturer at the Unesco Chair of Philosophy (Universitat Jaume I de Castelló) and as a visiting researcher at the Institute DEMOS Paz (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). He was awarded a postdoctoral position at the Romani Studies Program (Central European University). His research interest focuses on the interrelation among law-culture-politics, by analyzing how ideologies constitute institutional norms, policy frames, and action programs. During his academic career, Dr Cortés has been a researcher at the School of Critical Theory & Cultural Studies (University of Nottingham), the Institute for the Study of Peace and Conflicts (International University of Andalusia) and the Institute of Human Rights Bartolomé de las Casas (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid). He has published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals and op-eds with newspapers such as HuffPost, Le Monde Diplomatique, Euractiv, and El País.