A Contemporary History of Exclusion: The Roma Issue in Hungary from 1945 to 2015

A Contemporary History of Exclusion: The Roma Issue in Hungary from 1945 to 2015

A Contemporary History of Exclusion: The Roma Issue in Hungary from 1945 to 2015

A Contemporary History of Exclusion: The Roma Issue in Hungary from 1945 to 2015


This study presents the changing situation of the Roma in the second half of the twentieth century. The authors examine the effects of the policies of the Hungarian state towards minorities by analyzing legal regulations, policy documents, archival sources and sociological surveys. The book offers theoretical background to one of the most burning issues in east Europe. In the first phase (1945-61), the authors show the efforts of forced assimilation by the communist state. The second phase (1961-89) began with the party resolution denying nationality status to the Roma. The prevailing thought was that Gypsy culture was a culture of poverty that must be eliminated. Forced assimilation through labor activities continued. In the 1970s Roma intellectuals began an emancipatory movement, and its legacy can still be felt. The third phase (1989-2010) brought about some freedoms and rights for the Roma, with large sums spent on various Roma-related programs. Despite these efforts, the situation on the ground did not improve. Segregation and marginalization continues, and is rampant. Published in 2016 by arrangement with the Eötvös Loránd University, Eszterházy Károly University of Applied Sciences and the Center for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.


Contexts of Gypsy/Roma identity and history

“Do not ask me who I am and do not ask me to remain the same”—this is what the French philosopher and cultural historian Michel Foucault thought concerning the relationship we develop with our own image and the image of us formed by others. in the 1950s a Gypsy nail-maker bitterly explained what people in Hungary generally thought about Gypsies: “The gadje [non-Roma] don’t even know that the Roma work for them, so they can have fancy houses. Who makes staples? the Roma. Who makes Rabitz mesh? the Roma. Who makes thumbnails? the Roma. Who makes steel clasps? the Roma. Who makes corner pins? the Roma. and who knows that the Roma make all these things? the Roma. No one knows, all they know about is lice and theft.” These two quotes illustrate the difference between social science theory and the real relativism of a citizen living as a member of a minority group. What we say and what is said about us are equally relative. the important question is whether we have a real influence on what is said and written about us: on the discourse.

Historians largely treat the view that the past endures in various texts and interpretations as an axiom. Writings that analyze discourses (texts that have come to life) are largely characterized by the relationship between power and knowledge. Powers-that-be oversee and take ownership of discourses through institutions: historical individuals and groups can lose their voice this way. a fundamental question is how various discourses—political, policy or scientific—influence the opportunity to express identity.

There exists a substantive interpretation, according to which the historical determination of identity is not significant in the case of Roma. This approach . . .

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