Roma Rights and the Production of Scandalous Ethnicity in the Romanian Written Media
Rutgers University, Department of Political Science
This paper analyzes the discourses around ethnicity, nationalism, and Roma rights that circulated in the Romanian media after the 1989 collapse of authoritarianism. It illuminates an interesting dynamic played out at the intra-national and inter-national levels, in a case where the notion of minority rights has been at least partly unsuccessful in contributing to a decrease in the amount of Roma-oriented media hostility. It contends that one cannot grasp the reasons for the partial failure of minority rights debates to transform oppressive majoritarian discourses and make room for appropriate ethnic representations unless one looks beyond the nation state to the global network of power relations within which countries are embedded. Specifically, minority rights are rendered partly inefficient in a state whose majority population is constructed in pejorative terms and often conflated with the Roma, an already stigmatized ethnic minority, by narratives produced within EU sites of power. Much of the Romanian media responds by constructing a clear-cut boundary between the Roma and the ethnic Romanians: it seeks to reveal what the Roma are really like, by describing them in disparaging, scandalous ways (the suggestion being that ethnic Romanians are everything that the Roma are not: honest, peaceful, hard-working citizens). The power relations between the two ethnic groups are thus being inverted: the Roma have always been disadvantaged by the Romanian majority; however, Romanian newspapers suggest that it is they (the Roma) who are aggressing us, the respectable Romanian folk. This (heavily gendered) reversal undermines the notion of minority rights.
Keywords: ethnicity, minority rights, media, power relations, discrimination, oppression, hate speech, gendered representations, Roma, Romania
Date posted: June 5, 2008 ; Last revised: May 6, 2011
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