The way in which researchers, experts and scientists classify people - in this case the Roma - can have serious consequences. Highly repetitive Roma-related themes and in conjunction with mass media production, the topics such as poverty, lack of education, unemployment and welfare dependency, and all these were transformed into an iconic depiction of Roma. A critical reading of Roma-related literature illuminates the implications of the objectification of people's private lives, and that the scientific and expert findings circulated by Roma-related research are highly influenced by the political regimes in power. As a result of this, many of those labeled as Roma internalize these enduring stereotypes, which limits their expectations, and often negatively influences their life course. A consistently negative image of Roma persists, and clearly, it needs to be analyzed, challenged, dismantled, and deconstructed. In the author's view, the best way is not to analyze the Roma themselves (since ethnic identity is contextual and fluid) but to look at their various classifiers - and especially to the expert categorizers - and to the various means of objectification.
The study contributes to a critical debate which could lead to more sensitivity, more prudent assumptions, descriptions and methodological designs, and may assist in depoliticizing Roma ethnicity.
Mihai Surdu is Fellow with Roma Initiatives of the Open Society Foundation Budapest, and Senior Researcher at the Institute for Quality of Life, Bucharest.
Introduction Chapter 1: Epistemic and Political Classifications 1. Classifications that Matter Strengthening the object of study Static and Variable in Roma classifications 2. Scientific Interests and Political Relevance The political economy of knowledge production 3. From Expert- to Self-Ascription Chapter 2: Ethnicity Theories and Research Practices 1. Constructivist Theories vs. Essentialist Practices Ethnicity as a fiction made by science The entrepreneurial side of ethnicity Ethnicity as an artificial boundary Ethnicity as an uncritical circulated category 2. Roma Ethnicity Measurement in Sociological Surveys How Roma representative samples are made Framing questions and interpreting findings in Roma-related surveys Chapter 3: Disciplinary Traditions in the Study of Roma 1. From Police Profiling to Policy Research Profiles 2. Anthropological, Historical and Linguistic Accounts of Roma Linguistics and historiography of Roma Social history on Roma minoritization and stigmatization Anthropological views on Roma origin: Exoticization and irrelevance 3. Roma Identity between Activism and Politics 4. Studies on Roma Discrimination Chapter 4: Ethnicity Inscriptions in Census and Surveys 1. Census in Racial Policy Regimes Census in Nazi Germany Census in apartheid South Africa 2. Ethnicity Inscription in Modern Censuses Governmental practices of recording ethnicity in census Census as a tool of governance Resistance to census categorization 3. From Fiscal to Ethnic Categories and Further On to Ethnic Unavailable Gypsies as a social and fiscal category Gypsies as an undercounted census category Roma as an unavailable ethnic category 4. Problematic Consensus on the Roma Undercount in Census 5. Representative Surveys Samples Built on Unrepresentative Census Data Chapter 5: Influencers of Academic and Expert Discourse about Roma 1. A Bibliometric Approach 2. Institutionalization of Roma Category in the Academic Discourse 3. Disentangling Influence 4. Who is Who in Expert Discourse about Roma Chapter 6: Case Studies on Roma-related Discourse 1. Recycling Frames in the World Bank Publications (Case Study 1) Cultural frames Repetitio est mater studiourum Selectivity of sources and assembling evidence in Roma-related research 2. Roma Welfare Dependency: How Representations are Created and Dismantled (Case Study 2) Unmaking the public opinion 3. Genetic Studies: Interest in Roma Origin(s) and Mobility (Case Study 3) Endogamy as a master narrative frame in Roma-related genetic papers The unbearable generalization: From convenience samples to Roma population Roma as subjects of medical genetic research 4. "The Sun is a Gypsy Stove" (Case Study 4) Chapter 7: Visual Depictions of Roma in Expert Publications 1. Reading Photography: Pretext, Text and Context Selection of the photos for the analysis 2. Roma Images in Policy Literature Roma girl writing in a schoolbook Children by the garbage dumpsite The smoking Roma 3. The Untold Roma Story or the Repressed Normalcy Conclusions Bibliography