The in/visibility of being Romani: Constructions of ethnic belonging among (migrant) Romani communities in Austria

Muirhead Tower, Room 417, University of Birmingham
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Research, Social Sciences
Monday 25th November 2013 (13:00-14:00)

Ann Bolstridge

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Barbara Tiefenbacher, PhD Researcher at the University of Vienna and Visiting Fellow in IRiS at the University of Birmingham

Following the collapse of the “Iron Curtain”, poverty-stricken Romani migrants from post-communist countries who carry out busking, mendicancy or selling street papers have become a cause of public anxiety in Austria and elsewhere. Carrying out these activities in public space has been ethnicized as “typical Romani”. However, earlier migrants who came from the 1960s onwards on the basis of bilateral agreements as “Gastarbeiter” (guest worker) from former Yugoslavia to Austria (and Germany) were never perceived publicly as being Romani but solely as Yugoslavs. Thus, their Romani belonging remained invisible outside of their community.

In this presentation I am comparing the formation of ethnic belonging(s) in these two different Romani communities: firstly, I focus on recent begging migration from South Slovakia to Austria´s second largest city of Graz. Migrants in this context are marked and perceived as Roma in public and media from the very beginning. In the second place, I discuss descendants of former Yugoslav Romani “guest workers” in Vienna, who in the 2nd and 3rd generation have achieved social upward mobility through university education.

In my research I am examining the construction and the perception of ethnicity in these different social and geographical places within the communities. In which situations are which codes and markers responsible for the construction of Romani or other ethnic belonging? To which extent do external ascriptions influence conceptions of the own ethnic belonging(s) and which consequences go along with it? Does a “transnational perspective” play a role in these constructions of ethnic belonging(s)? And if so, to what extent?

The seminar is open to the public. To book a place: