Roma Political Agency and Spaces of Social Inclusion and Exclusion: Dissembling the Local Meanings of Roma Self Governance Amidst the Rise of Hungary’s Radical Right

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Gellner Room
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 11:30am
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 11:30am to 1:00pm

This talk will discuss the ongoing impacts, contradictions, and civic outcomes of Hungary’s 1993 Act 77 on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities, legislation that created the framework for self-governance among Hungary’s 13 recognized minority groups, specifically focusing on Hungary’s Roma minority. Act 77 would appear to represent progressive, inclusive legislation helping to foster multi-ethnic open societies. However, minority self-governance may alternately further and deepen ethnic social and political exclusion, especially where Roma are concerned, because of contradictions within the law, limited political and fiscal resources of minority self-governments, and the law’s framing around the concept of “cultural autonomy” when the most immediate problems affecting Roma are social and economic in nature. These questions and contradictions are further complicated by growing and often radicalized right wing political movements. We present recent and ongoing data collection gathered from interviews with Roma self-government leaders across Hungary, discussing the perceptions of Roma leaders regarding nationality self-governance as, alternately, a mechanism for enhancing social inclusion and political agency and/or, an institution that only further strengthens social, political and economic divisions along ethnic lines.

Kai A. Schafft, a fellow at CEU’s Institute for Advanced Studies, is a rural sociologist and an Associate Professor of Education at Penn State University where he edits the Journal of Research in Rural Education, and directs the Center on Rural Education and Communities. His work broadly focuses on rural transformation, the relationships between social and spatial inequality, and the connection between the well-being of rural schools and the communities within which they are located.  He has authored and edited three books, as well as over 70 journal articles, reports and reviews. His most recent work examines the local impacts of unconventional gas development in rural Pennsylvania “boomtown” communities. His work this year at CEU revisits earlier research on the social and political implications of the Roma minority self-governance in Hungary.

Roland Ferkovics is a finishing Master's student at the Central European University Department of Political Science. He is currently writing his thesis on group specific rights with a particular focus on Roma political representation in Hungary after the transition. In 2014 he worked as a field researcher in a study titled “No Longer Permissible: Roma School Desegregation Litigation and its Impact,” implemented in the collaboration of the Roma Education Fund and the Open Society Justice Initiative. The study is set for publication in 2015. In 2015 he also worked with Roma Education Fund on the organization’s Annual Report which is also set for publication.