Accepted Paper:

Territorial stigmatization, social unrest and the creation of worth in a poor neighborhood of Bucharest  


Gergő Pulay (ELKH)

Paper short abstract:

Instead of relying on simple dichotomies between the stigmatized and those who stigmatize, the paper connects the local urban scale of ethnography in Bucharest’s ’most infamous’ neighborhood to the marginalization that occurs at the level of the EU superpolity, in order to make sense of their entanglement.

Paper long abstract:

In states of postsocialist Eastern Europe, the search for local obstacles to the civilizing process took the shape of exposing society's 'dirty laundry' - as a public disciplinary exercise by politicians, the media, as well as by ordinary citizens - and has been conducive to the stigmatization of abject populations. The marginal and mixed Roma and non-Roma Romanian neighborhood of Bucharest that provides the field-site of this ethnographic account is known as an ultimate 'Gypsyland' (ţiganie) in town, an 'internal orient' containing the 'worthless' and 'uncivilized' of urban society. The paper advances the conceptual framework of stigmatization by connecting the urban scale of inquiry to the marginalization that occurs at the level of the EU superpolity. In this context, poor neighborhoods can obtain highly central positions not only as regular suppliers of 'hot issues' in the public sphere, but also because of the metonymic power by which they allude to the overall plight of the city and the nation at the European periphery. The paper focuses on the links between marginality, the popular politics of social unrest and the livelihood strategies with which inhabitants strive to create material and non-material value in their uncertain environments. The ethnographic argument departs from instances when local Gypsy traders found themselves in clashes with the police or the private security guards in the neighborhood as local traders of scrap-metal, and around Bucharest's open-air markets as street vendors, so as to explicate the forms and meanings of their self-defense against the state and institutional violence.

Panel P090
Urban margins: new perspectives on the city