Accepted paper:

Liberating Gadje imagination via grounded Roma identity politics in Slovakia


Andrej Belak (Slovak Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

At the applied end of my medical anthropological research, I keep receiving the following: When confronted with ethnographically grounded Roma identity politics, imagination of those non-Roma who qualify as Gadje becomes forced outside its Enlightenment box due to anarchist features of Roma cosmology.

Paper long abstract:

As eloquently explained by David Graeber in his Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, adopting identity politics usually prevents authentic emancipation of those suppressed, assisting instead dominant nation-statist political paradigms. According to my personal experience however, Roma identity politics drawn from ethnographic accounts of segregated Roma communities might offer a promising exception to this rule in both respects. Since 2004, the leading applied question of my fieldwork has been: how and why might who be contributing to the relatively miserable health-status of segregated Roma in Slovakia? After spending initial years among segregated Roma themselves, lately I have moved on to join the country's health-system professionals who happen to work mostly on behalf of this Roma subgroup. Along this trajectory, I am naturally being pulled into discussions about 'realistic' options for improving Roma health-status - by physicians, media, politicians, etc. For lack of better discourses at such fora, when attempting to stress both practical and moral significances of the hardly known specific reasoning and preferences of majority of segregated Roma, I often find myself negotiating something as a specific identity. Nevertheless, the very content of my 'Roma identity with respect to biomedicine' appears compatible with other ethnography on segregated Roma from across Europe - especially in terms of exhibiting a strong anti-Gadje logic. Thanks to such oppositional aspects, rather than conforming itself to usual expectations of the non-Romany discussants the thus grounded Roma identity stance instead seems automatically to open as legitimate questions of reasonability of respective Gadje ways initially considered self-evident.

panel P089
Roma/Gypsy resilience beyond marginality?