Accepted paper:

From Worker to Non-Citizen to Asylum-Seeker: Hungarian Roma in the Shadows of Postsocialist Illiberalism

Authors:

Sara Swerdlyk (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses Marx's theories of value to make sense of Romani experience in postsocialist Hungary. By tracing the valuation of Roma as socialist factory worker, postsocialist non-citizen, and asylum-seeker in Canada, the paper studies the reorganization of value within postsocialist illiberalism.

Paper long abstract:

This paper uses a close reading of Marx's theories of valuation to study the everyday experiences of Romani people fleeing Hungary to seek refugee status in Canada. Using interviews with former socialist factory workers now living as refugees in Toronto, the paper traces the processes of valuation and devaluation experienced by Roma within postsocialist deindustrialization, illiberalism, and migration. The paper focuses on the intersections of class reorganization and citizenship formation that Roma face as they undergo a historical transformation from "worker" to "non-citizen" to "asylum-seeker". Moving beyond anthropological analyses of "surplus populations," the paper highlights capitalist processes of devaluation to analyze what happens when socialist industries that once gave blue-collar workers an identity disappear, and how this impacts citizenship formation in postsocialist contexts increasingly defined by illiberal politics. The paper is based on fieldwork in which former factory workers speak of being survivors of the double dispossession of losing both their livelihoods and their inclusion in Hungarian citizenship, arguing that using Marx's theories of value is a fruitful way to make sense of how Roma understand these intersecting postsocialist processes of class and citizenship reorganization. In doing so, this paper takes up issues that are of great urgency to Marxian anthropology given the ways in which we have witnessed the simultaneous unfolding of the global refugee crisis, the rise of illiberal movements, global austerity and economic crisis, thus emphasizing the need for a Marxian anthropology that pays attention to dynamics of citizenship and migration within capitalist processes of (de)valuation, dispossession, and class formation.

panel P129
Marx @200: historical materialism for today's world [IUAES Commission on Global Transformations and Marxian Anthropology]