Accepted Paper:

Roma & class in Kosovo after self-management socialism  


Amelia Jane Abercrombie (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper assesses the utility of the categories of socialism and postsocialism for understanding the status of Roma in post-conflict Prizren, Kosovo.

Paper long abstract:

How useful are categories of 'socialism'/'postsocialism' for understanding the status of Roma in post-conflict Prizren, Kosovo? Across eastern Europe, Romani Studies scholars talk about Roma as having gone from marginalised but working class (with accompanying entitlements) to underclass. The same is true of many Roma in Kosovo, who in addition are accused of being on the wrong side in the conflict. This characterisation however is alien to the Roma I conducted fieldwork with. Although they also face high unemployment, they stress their integration and cosmopolitanism. Their relative high status dates back to Ottoman times, but was further cemented under Yugoslav socialism, when most had factory jobs. Indeed, paradoxically, although Kosovo was the most marginalised and deprived province of Yugoslavia, these Roma, like local Serbs, were much more integrated through their jobs and entitlements into the Yugoslav redistributive economy than the majority rural population (predominantly Albanian). Today there are very few formal jobs in Kosovo. Simultaneously, the demographic composition of Prizren has changed drastically, with the Serbs mostly leaving, and an influx of rural Albanian migrants. In this context, Prizren Roma are doubly marginalised. First, Kosovo is newly marginalised within post-Cold War political-economic European relations, hence factory closes and soaring unemployment; but secondly, they are a minority in a nationalising state, and subject to discrimination in the jobs market. Dominant optics see Kosovo in the light of conflict/reconstruction, and Romani marginalisation in ethnic terms. I suggest that these optics needs to be complemented with those of socialism/postsocialism.

Panel P031
Postsocialism and anthropology: theoretical legacies and European futures