Accepted Paper:

Differentiating Gypsiness: the case of Slovakian Roma migrants in Slovakia and in migration contexts  


Jan Grill (University of Valle)

Paper short abstract:

Using ethnographic examples of one Roma grouping from Slovakia labour migrating to United Kingdom, this paper examines some aspects of the trans-forming social differentiation in relation to these migrants' self-representation and positioning vis-à-vis other Roma as well as non-Roma dominant groups.

Paper long abstract:

Based on my fieldwork among one specific grouping of Roma migrants following the Slovak accession into EU, I intend to look at the changing social ties and solidarity linking individuals to larger collectivities. In east Slovakia, migration has become both a mean and symbol of 'self-transforming projects' (Gardner and Osella 2003) with mobility being understood as a possible strategy enabling these migrants to circumvent variously constraining social orders. I will show that while these migrants can, through material and social uplift and modes of consumption, transform their self-representations there is also a set of newly emerging and transforming differentiation and categorisations of Gypsy migrants both in relatively homogenous Slovakian and more diverse UK context. I will show how the more 'successful' migrants often perceive themselves as being more 'advanced' and more 'modern' on imagined symbolic continuum while the other surrounding Roma being often labelled as backward. This self-positioning highlights how these Roma differentiate themselves from other 'Gypsies' and it also shows how these migrants refuse to put their identity under one umbrella of what is considered as lost in the past or associated with previous forms of poverty. The migration experience can be then understood as a specific form of consuming modernity. These various forms of social differentiation will be illustrated through ethnographic examples of the Roma migrants' interactions with Roma from different neighbouring villages in Slovakia vis-à-vis other Roma and non-Roma groups from Central Eastern Europe living in Great Britain.

Panel W116
Beyond identity: new directions in the anthropology of Roma/Gypsy groups