Between Nationalism and Pragmatism: The Roma Movement in Interwar Romania

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In the interwar period, for the first time in their history, Romanian Roma managed to organise themselves on a modern basis, by forming Roma associations and unions, and issuing their own newspapers and programmes. In an effort to definethemselves, they became politically active, claiming and negotiating rights. In my article I analyse the context of the interwar Roma movement, how Roma leaders of the time saw themselves and their movement, what programme(s) they had, and how they tried to achieve their goals. This was a serious challenge: As they were not self-sufficient, they heavily depended on support from Romanian institutions, and hence they had to act with caution in order to avoid any hostile reactionsfrom the Romanian majority. Overall, the discourse of Roma elites in interwar Romania ranged between: 1) a national approach directed inwardly, toward the Roma, for ethnic mobilisation purposes, including calls to unite in order to acquire their rights, efforts to combat ethnic stigmatisation, discussions on ethnonyms (Gypsy vs. Roma) or on the importance of Roma in Romania and worldwide, the beginning of a national/ethnic mythology (past, origin, enslavement, heroizationvs. victimization, etc.); and 2) a pragmatic approach directed outwardly, toward Romanian authorities and public opinion;rather than a national minority, Roma leaders presented the Roma as a social category with specific needs, due to theirhistorical legacy. Of these two, throughout the interwar period, pragmatism prevailed. Special emphasis was placed on the
issue of social inclusion, and on identifying specific problems and solutions (i.e., better access to education, settlement, deconstruction of prejudices, etc.).
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)305–315
JournalSocial Inclusion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2020


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