CIRS 2016 13th Scientific Conference, 14-17th Sep, Marseille (FR)

MarseilleOral presentation: Pereira, A., & Green, E. G. T. When identity resistance undermines political resistance of Bulgarian Roma: a social representational analysis of activism.

Abstract: Bulgaria is a multicultural nation characterized by the presence of historically settled Roma communities forming one of the country’s largest minorities. As elsewhere in Europe, Roma are the target of prejudice and discrimination. Moreover, Bulgarian Roma are poorly recognized institutionally, economically excluded and politically disengaged. First, analyzing 10 semi-directive interviews conducted with Bulgarian Roma, this study considered ethnic and national identifications as specific organizing principles (Clémence, 2003) of the minority’s discourse about social inequalities. Using textual and discursive analyses, we describe how the opposition between the Roma/Gypsy and the Bulgarian identities was debated using ethnic vs. civic criteria. We show how these identity discourses were rooted in Bulgarian history and led to undermining the voice of the Roma minority. Moreover, Roma self-definition was anchored in positive intergroup contact. For example, a respondent reported a lot of positive contact with the national majority but told in parallel how they were disillusioned facing the impermeability of intergroup boundaries. Such discourse was used to rationalize intergroup inequalities. Simultaneously, close contact with the majority in itself was presented as an act of resistance against segregation. Second, to investigate how the minority perspective is rooted in the anti-Roma prejudice of the majority, we examined 20 semi-directive interviews with ethnic Bulgarians. In contrast to the minority discourse, the majority did not question the belonging of the Roma minority, but rather denounced the attention they received, as well as Roma “ethnicity” as a source of social privilege. Interestingly, arguments similar to those of the minority were used to legitimize these negative attitudes, such as insisting that “all Bulgarians should be treated equally”. The interpretations of this “equal” treatment were totally different in the minority perspective (e.g. job access and minimal living standards) and in the majority perspective (e.g. reducing social aid). We discuss how these shared representations limit the Bulgarian Roma’s responses to prejudice (see e.g. Bigazzi & Csertő, 2015), and reproduce the state of dependence (Moscovici & Faucheux, 1972), instead of nourishing active resistance.

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