This research doesn’t only look at who Roma are. It goes further by looking at what is happening to Roma around Europe. It questions why Roma are facing discrimination, racism and marginalisation and by extension asks what can be done to tackle these issues? It attempts to understand the complex socio-economic, political and cultural processes which underpin the racism which Roma have endured historically and in contemporary society.
I also focus on how Romaphobia is taken as a given. For instance, the way that we talk about Roma is different from other communities who are also persecuted.
My research advances certain ideas and introduces certain concepts that I think are useful for other research, particularly around the relationship between territory, nation building, and identity.
One of the main arguments is that the policy interventions in health, education, employment and housing are doomed to fail unless policymakers get to grips with the pervasive nature of anti-Roma racism and how far-reaching, and tolerated it is. For example, when developing a policy on education for Roma or for Roma women, unless it has inbuilt understanding of this process of anti-Roma racism, it will not work.
It is important to understand that Roma communities have a very bad press. They are framed by the media as criminals, as deviant, as untrustworthy outsiders. A lot of that exists because many Roma communities have a distrust of mainstream society, due to historically being enslaved, and being victims of genocide, this ultimately leads Roma to pull themselves out of mainstream society, and receive this bad press.
We have a lot of work to do, and policymakers are crucial in building the bridge to foster integration and inclusion initiatives. The way to do this is through education, employment, health and housing. These are the fundamentals. But the level of poverty, which excluded Roma communities endure, also has an impact in terms of a collective psyche. Many Roma don’t want to engage with mainstream society and overall, policymakers need to help bridge that.
For this book, I conducted research in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. I collected the data over a number of years, based on the existing networks that I had. I interviewed politicians, religious leaders, community organisers, youth activists and artists. Usually, I would have a translator. The sample size was 25 interviews.
I also did participant observation, at Roma pride events, demonstrations and protests. I was participating actively in those, taking notes, doing recordings, taking photographs, and then analysing them later through discourse analysis and visual content analysis. I also analysed documents such as EU level documents and national strategies in terms of Roma intervention.
The research is qualitative therefore it isn’t necessarily generalisable. The only way of making the arguments that I have, was to do the research that I did. Although I do make the argument early on in the book that the issues which Roma face are all across Europe. It’s been quite a negative experience in almost every state. Therefore looking in other states in Europe might still be a way of implementing the findings.