Slovak Roma in Municipal Politics

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
2.04 (Binnengasthuis)
David Z. Scheffel , Sociology and Anthropology, Thompson Rivers University
Slovak Roma in municipal politics

East European Roma (Gypsies) are usually portrayed as an excluded people living on the margins of society. While this view is undoubtedly correct in some respects, recent developments indicate increasing participation and success of Roma in local politics. Slovakia is of particular interest in this respect, because it has the highest number of Romani mayors and councillors in Europe. Importantly, these are not members of urban elites, but ordinary and often semi-literate rural slum dwellers. This sets the newly minted Romani politicians apart from other minority members appearing on the political scene in west European countries. My contribution presents preliminary results of a research project that examines the circumstances and consequences of the participation of Slovak Roma in formal politics. The research is taking place at a time when a growing number of European populist movements and even entire political parties are expressing doubt about the willingness of Roma to integrate into the surrounding dominant society. The politicization of Slovak Roma demonstrates their interest in institutions of the dominant society. Yet because of their lack of experience in this arena and their disenfranchisement from the dominant society and culture, formal politics is being 'domesticated' to fit the needs of the new Romani participants. My contribution provides some insights into this process and its echos within and outside Romani communities. It focuses on local inter-ethnic relations, patterns of authority within Romani communities, and the interaction of municipal authorities with state agencies.

  • Slovak Roma (A'dam).pdf (144.7 kB)