Belonging, Stigma, and the Art of Getting By: The case of a Roma community in Romania
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to understand the subjective experiences of the people living in a Roma community in Romania, in the context of ethnic-based stigmatization and exclusion. Research themes include ethnic identity patterns, experiences of discrimination and racism, coping strategies and outlook on life. I first describe how the general label of “ţigani” (gypsies) overlooks more complex affiliation patterns that the Roma themselves practice. However, the problem is not with the ethnic label in itself, but with the negative stereotypes attached to it. I argue that their experiences of discrimination and racism should be analyzed through an intersectional framework, where not just ethnicity, but also gender, class and age play important parts. The Roma cope with the stigma in different ways, from “cutting ties” with the outside and finding refuge inside the community, to trying to distance themselves from the ethnic group. The young construct their hopes for the future in relation to what their parents did not have, and have common resolutions: a house and family, a steady job, being respected and moving away. I rely on data gathered through one month’s fieldwork in a Roma community in Romania, and discuss it in relation to theories of identity, power and stigma, with focus on gender and ethnicity.
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