Accepted paper:

Between hopeful movement and immobilities. The case of Slovakian Roma migration to Great Britain


Jan Grill (University of Valle University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on ethnographic research among Slovak Roma/Gypsy migrants in Great Britain. It explores how migration experiences shapes hopes and greater sense of possibilities for previously marginalized Roma in Slovakia. But it also situates their movements within unequally distributed forms of capitals, and new forms of disconnect and despair.

Paper long abstract:

Based on ethnographic research among Slovakian Roma/Gypsies migrating between Slovakia and Great Britain, this paper examines crystallisation of imagining 'England as a great splendour' and shows how it generates hopes and aspirations of moving towards 'better livelihood'. It analytically juxtaposes this anticipation of better future with emerging inequalities and disconnection of those who do not succeed in the migration and those who are left behind. Many of these migrants claimed asylum in various western European countries in late 1990s. Most of them were not granted asylum and returned home to Slovakia. Following the redrawing of geopolitical borders and changing mobility regimes after Slovakia accessed EU in 2004, many Roma families migrated to the UK. The successful returning migrants established new hierarchies and contributed to the crystallizing of the image of England as a space of hope and characterised by the expression 'going up'. By situating this notion within the daily sociability, I argue for seeing their migration as a potential avenue to carve out a sense of a viability against the oppressive circumstances and the asymmetrical relations with non-Roma and with non-related Roma. And yet the paper will juxtapose this hopeful movements with experiences of loss and disruption, of those who fail to fulfill their aspirations, and those who stay behind and never migrate. The paper shows the unevenly distributed possibilities and complex inequalities that these Roma encounter on their journey. I will draw on ethnography of Roma categories of movement, hope, loss and disconnect but connect it theoretically with G. Hage's and M. Jackson's work.

panel MMM14
New geographies of hope and despair