Christina Hooson

Christina Hooson (Dženo Association): Christina completed her BA in European Studies in London. At the time of her fellowship, Christina was studying for her Masters in International Affairs and Governance at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. She first came across the issue of Roma Rights during her Bachelor studies in the context of the democratisation process in Eastern Europe.



No romanticisation. No condemnation.

02 Jul

I took a huge step yesterday and went…grocery shopping. Momentarily daunted by the vast array of dairy products which lay before me, I made my move and triumphantly lifted off the shelf what I hoped was yoghurt. Victory celebrations were cut short (the imaginary Mexican wave had only rippled half way down the shopping aisle) by a tap on the shoulder. I turned to face an overly friendly member of staff frantically pointing to a low fat alternative. Trying hard not to be offended, I explained I spoke no Czech. Grinning, the shop assistant paused, nodded and then proudly announced: “cheap, take this…cheaper, good AND cheap”.

Having been in Prague for only a few days, it is too soon to make sweeping judgments about the city’s inhabitants. Yet the yoghurt incident reflects much of what I have witnessed so far; an eagerness to help and an admiration (or is it perhaps sympathy?) for anyone attempting to speak their language. It is hard to imagine that abhorrence as strong as that towards Roma can emanate from this same society….

I have refrained until now from delving into the world of “Antigypsyism” and the situation of Roma in Central and Eastern Europe in any great detail. As gingerly as I first entered the supermarket I will now – blog by blog – begin to navigate my way through the web of tradition, culture, language, migration, discrimination, social deprivation, violence (I could go on) and prejudice. I begin by reiterating the words of EU commissioner Vladimír Špidla who insists that neither romanticisation nor condemnation provide the answer to the Roma problematic. There is no black and white. Dialogue is required and uncomfortable truths regarding all parties involved need to be addressed.

Gypsy.cz: Rapper Radoslav Banga and Violinist Vojta Lavicka

The lyrics of the internationally successful Czech Romano hip-hop group Gypsy.cz is one example; an attempt at self-reflection of sorts. Band members Radoslav Banga and Vojta Lavicka maintain that whilst European society segregated the Roma people in the past, the real problem today is that Gypsies don’t want to integrate. By focusing on the role Roma themselves have in determining their own fate, Gypsy.cz may be in danger of neglecting the bigger picture. Nevertheless, their views do demonstrate the need for a multidimensional approach – one surpassing in scope even the supermarket’s impressive dairy selection.

I leave you for now with a little taste of what is possible:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tseT9oOd4pY

Posted By Christina Hooson

Posted Jul 2nd, 2009

3 Comments

  • Stacy

    July 3, 2009

     

    Love the song. Thanks so much for sharing! I think I might have seen a poster for these guys here in Bucharest, actually. Globalization at work all over that song. Love it.

  • Luisa

    August 25, 2009

     

    “As gingerly as I first entered the supermarket I will now – blog by blog – begin to navigate my way through the web of tradition, culture, language, migration, discrimination, social deprivation, violence (I could go on) and prejudice.”

    And a web it is. Who said it was going to be easy – You’ve set yourself a great and complex objective and I must say that you’ve managed incredibly well so far… Your blog entries have always been insightful, engaging, interesting, diverse, treating different issues and people in their own right and within their own context, never pefunctorily… And not to mention the fact that they’re written in charming and endearing Christina-style (yes, it exists!). I’m happy that this issue isn’t being treated by an academic robot – it’s truly inspiring to see the topic of stereotyping explored and explained by someone so idiosyncratic, someone so human. I look forward to reading about more about your attempts at disentangling and tugging at the different streaks and strands that make up this very intricate and tight knot in Czech (and, well, our) society.

    It’s also good to know that some things never change, re: the yogurt…

  • Luisa

    August 25, 2009

     

    “EU commissioner Vladimír Špidla who insists that neither romanticisation nor condemnation provide the answer to the Roma problematic. There is no black and white. Dialogue is required and uncomfortable truths regarding all parties involved need to be addressed.”

    Yes, indeed – I agree completely. I think that is precisely the insight that we need if we are to tackle this problem in any meaningful way: That we, to use a wonderful German idiom, will all need to sweep under our own rugs 😉 Stereotypes are not just “of” someone or something, least of all facts, they are also always someone’S. There’s always two (or more) sides.

    And, as a general note…I just went off on one. It doesn’t fit here, but nevermind:
    While I cannot claim to know so much about this issue, I imagine that “antigypsyism” has a long, long tradition in Europe. I wonder to what extent its partly derived from Sinti and Roma (or rather what is
    commonly understood by “gypsy lifestyle”) forming such an antithesis to one of the central values held dear by virtually all European nationalisms: Namely that of belonging to a clearly defined community (the nation) which resides on a clearly defined territory (the state). I wonder whether in this sense, antigypsyism perhaps shares this aspect of antisemitism: The fear of something foreign, of a people that is (supposedly) constantly in motion, a people that cannot really pinned down. A eople dangerous for its lack of clear allegiance, for its alleged rootlessness. And, indeed, I do wonder whether that might still be the case; whether antigypsyism is perhaps a very early, long-standing (and for that reason well-rehearsed) “Ausländerfeindlichkeit”… from long before there was as much moving about as there is there is these days…

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