Alliance against Antigypsyism

Antigypsyism – a reference paper

July 2016

Alliance against Antigypsyism (2016) Antigypsyism – a reference paper. Page 2 of 11
Alliance against Antigypsyism

\"Antigypsyism – a reference paper\"

Antigypsyism is the specific racism towards Roma, Sinti, Travellers and others who are
stigmatized as \'gypsies\' in the public imagination. Although the term is finding
increasing institutional recognition, there is as yet no common understanding of its
nature and implications. Antigypsyism is often used in a narrow sense to indicate anti-
Roma attitudes or the expression of negative stereotypes in the public sphere or hate
speech. However, antigypsyism gives rise to a much wider spectrum of discriminatory
expressions and practices, including many implicit or hidden manifestations.
Antigypsyism is not only about what is being said, but also about what is being done
and what is not being done.
1.To recognize its full impact, a more precise understanding
is crucial.

2.The Alliance against Antigypsyism

here proposes a working definition that reflects a
systematic conception of antigypsyism. This paper sketches its key characteristics, the
connections between its different aspects, and its myriad manifestations, which require
specific approaches. It wants to encourage policy and decision makers to put into
action a coherent, but diverse, set of measures to combat antigypsyism.

A number of key aspects deserve emphasis from the outset. Firstly, it is essential to
see that antigypsyism is not a \'minority issue\'. It is a phenomenon of our societies,
which has its origin in how the social majority view and treat those whom they consider
\'gypsies\'. To combat antigypsyism, our attention needs to shift to mainstream societies,
while raising the voices of those who are dramatically affected by antigypsyism, but
also usually silenced by it.

Secondly, antigypsyism is not the result of the poor living conditions many Roma have
to live in, or the result of \'how different they are\'. The idea that promoting Roma
integration is the main path to countering antigypsyism is a fallacy that misconstrues
the origins and essence of antigypsyism. It inverts cause and effect.

This means that, thirdly, addressing the effects of discriminatory treatment – poverty,
poor quality housing, substandard education, to name a few – is necessary, but in and
of itself does nothing to eradicate the ultimate source of the disadvantaged position of
many Romani citizens. Consequently, antigypsyism cannot be simply treated as a
thematic issue, alongside housing, education, health and employment. It needs to be
dealt with as an integral part of thematic policies.

Finally, what sets antigypsyism apart is its high level of social acceptance. There is a
general leniency towards antigypsyist attitudes and practices. The moral stigma
attached to other forms of racism is largely absent for antigypsyism. Europe has seen
the emergence of a \'reasonable antigypsyism\'

3.To scold Roma and take discriminatory
action towards them is all too often perceived as justifiable and legitimate.
Antigypsyism is the norm rather than the exception in public discourse.

Antigypsyism is not only widespread, but also deeply entrenched in social and cultural
attitudes and institutional practice. This makes the challenge of tackling it both more
urgent and more difficult. Antigypsyism is like a continuous headwind. \'Roma inclusion\'
will remain illusory as long as we do not confront the headwind itself.

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1 Defining antigypsyism
There is as yet no commonly accepted definition of antigypsyism that finds wide
acceptance in civil society, public institutions and academia. Certain elements recur,
but descriptions are often imprecise or even lacking altogether in documents using the
term. To simply use antigypsyism as a synonym for \'Roma discrimination\' or as a
reference to certain specific expressions ( such as hate speech or negative
stereotypes) obscures the specificity, extent, and underlying structure of the

The term \'antitsyganizm\' for the first time appears in late 1920s Russia. Its current use
originates in academic debates of the 1970s and 1980s.
4. Drawing important parallels
with antisemitism, despite certain controversy, the term started entering the institutional
lexicon in the early 2000s. Its gradual adoption signals the recognition that Roma and
associated groups fall victim to a specific form of racism. This recognition is a
momentous step in the struggle for equal rights.

Key texts reflecting this process include the 2005 European Parliament resolutio

5.which for the first time used \"anti-Gypsyism\" in an official EU document. The OSCE,
FRA, and, in particular, the Council of Europe (CoE) have been pioneers in exploring
the implications of antigypsyism and placing it on policy makers\' agendas. The Council
of Europe\'s ECRI Recommendation no. 13 (2011)

6.remains as the benchmark of
addressing antigypsyism in a coherent and comprehensive manner.

In 2015, the European Parliament reiterated its call of 2005 to tackle antigypsyism,

7.and the European Commission for the first time made significant use of the term in its
report on the Implementation of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration

8.The growing institutional use of the term is a seemly development. The
great test for decision makers is now to translate the recognition of antigypsyism into
effective action – based on a profound understanding of what the phenomenon entails.
To formulate a working definition of antigypsyism that finds wide acceptance and
makes the concept relevant for a broader group of decision makers should help create
effective action to combat it.

The definition of antigypsyism proposed by Valeriu Nicolae in his 2006 paper \'Towards
a Definition of Anti-Gypsyism\' remains influential today. Commanding though his
assertion that dehumanization forms the central tenet of antigypsyism is, the paper\'s
argumentation is more evocative than systematic. As the title suggests, it intended to
generate debate, not conclude it. We are proposing the following working definition of
antigypsyism that aims to encompass the debate in civil society, institutions and
academia up to the present.

1.1 Working definition
\"Antigypsyism is a historically constructed, persistent complex of customary racism
against social groups identified under the stigma \'gypsy\' or other related terms, and
1. a homogenizing and essentializing perception and description of these
2. the attribution of specific characteristics to them;
3. discriminating social structures and violent practices that emerge against that
background, which have a degrading and ostracizing effect and which
reproduce structural disadvantages.\"

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This working definition aims to present an analytically coherent explanation of
antigypsyism underlines its layered structure, indicating how the discriminatory
practices that are part of antigypsyism flow from and relate to the ideological
construction of an alien other, a process that antigypsyism has in common with other
racisms. It underlines the invented or \'imaginary\' character of its objects, to make clear
that it does not target individuals or groups with common attributes, but operates on the
basis of the projection of certain shared traits that supposedly diverge from common
norms, while denying those affected the recognition of personal or common dignity.

The definition also highlights the historical character of antigypsyism along with the fact
that it has no fixed content: It adapts and readapts to changing social, economic and
political realities, but always resurface
10.This definition avoids placing certain
manifestations of antigypsyism, specific to certain contexts, at the center of attention,
so as not to obscure other – perhaps less visible, but equally harmful – practices. To
acknowledge antigypsyism is to recognize the multifaceted character of the
phenomenon and the common roots of discriminatory practices with widely varying
forms and intensities.

1.2 Terminology
Before we turn to a more detailed elaboration of the background, characteristics and
expressions of antigypsyism, two notes on terminology are in place.

Firstly, the arguments presented here favour the use of the term \'antigypsyism\' over
terms like \"anti-Romani racism\" or \"Romaphobia\", which are sometimes proposed as
synonyms. These terms directly refer to the group that is mostly, but not exclusively,
affected by this racism. The term antigypsyism – in citing the majority\'s projections of
an imagined out-group of \'gypsies\' which simultaneously constructs an imagined in-
group – is analytically more accurate and makes clear that other groups - Sinti,
Travellers, manouches, Egyptians – are equally affected. The term \"antiziganism\"
conveys the same content: To use antigypsyism by preference is more a matter of
convention, reflecting the fact that \'gypsy\' is the English term comprising the core
elements of this racist ideology.

Secondly, we have deliberately chosen the notation without hyphen: \"antigypsyism\";
not \"anti-G(g)ypsyism\". This is because the latter would inadvertently give the
impression that something like \'gypsyism\' exists. Although certain currents of thought
assert the existence of Rromanipen – a shared frame of affiliation among Roma – this
should not be considered at all related to the projections pronounced in antigypsyist
discourse. This usage also refutes the argument that antigypsyism should not be used
because the term \'gypsy\' has pejorative connotations. What those who embody
antigypsyism are antagonistic towards is actually a creation of the collective
imagination that is entirely ignorant of Romani cultures and perspectives.

2 Key aspects and background of antigypsyism.
In this section, the constituent elements of the proposed working definition will be
explored in more detail in order to further clarify the background and characteristics of
antigypsyism at different levels.

2.1 Historically rooted
Today\'s antigypsyism has deep historical roots in our societies. The strenuous
relationship between majority populations and those stigmatized as \'gypsies\' can be

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described as part of a common heritage, which underscores its persistence and
occurrence across different countries, in Europe and beyond
11.It should be clearly
understood that Romani people are not the cause of this ideology. The emergence of
antigypsyism is not to be confused with the migration of Romani people\'s ancestors
into certain regions. Rather, it flows from processes of social construction and
projection that are prevalent elements of the development of European \'civilization\'.
Against this constant factor, the ideological justifications of the unequal treatment of
Roma and other groups, and the practices of discrimination and persecution of them,
have been shaped and reshaped over and over and should be understood against the
backdrop of particular historical developments and events.
The effects of historical discrimination and persecution do not end with the act itself,
but continue to negatively affect the people persecuted as \'gypsies\' in their economic,
social and psychological lives. The slavery of Romani people in what is now Romania,
for example, had formally been abolished by the mid 19th century. However, the social
practice of perceiving Romani people as less than human has continued to produce
prejudice and everyday discrimination, both there and elsewhere. Moreover, the
historical conditions of slavery durably deprived Roma of the possession of land,
means of production or wealth. The poverty of many Roma today is still, to a certain
degree, shaped by the historical fact of Romani slavery. Historical segregation policies
have similarly isolated Romani communities from economic opportunities in many
places and continue to affect the livelihoods of those communities.
The same argument holds true for the effects of the European states\' persecution
policies against the \'gypsies\' that culminated in the genocide perpetrated by National
Socialist Germany and its allies during World War II. The Nazis\' aim was not only to kill
every single Romani individual, but to extinguish Romanipen as a whole. The loss of
human lives, besides impacting economic and social factors, also meant a loss of
cultural resources, traditions, diversity and language skills, and this strongly affects
today\'s Romani people\'s access to those resources. Additionally it has to be
understood, that – not unlike slavery or the coercive sterilization of Roma women –
such a persecution produces severe trauma that passes from generation to generation.

2.2 An essentialist ideology
The basis of antigypsyist ideology is the presumption of fundamental differences
between \'them\' and \'us\' which informs group construction processes and the
designation of identities of those outside the group. While such processes are present
in some form throughout most of European history, the act of \'othering\' was combined
with the advent of the ideology of \'race\' toward the end of the 19th century. The
concept of a \'gypsy-race\' was a consistent part of these ideologies. Their function was
to establish the notion of a fundamental \'otherness\', where all individuals of the
\'othered\' group share certain characteristics that set them apart from a supposedly
\'superior\' group, that these processes simultaneously construct.
After the Second World War, explicitly racial ideologies became illegitimate. The act of
othering shifted to notions such as \'ethnicity\', \'heritage\' or \'culture\', which are equally
used to uphold the concept of homogenous groups with essential characteristics.
Moreover, in particular academic circles, scientific racism continued to shape the
existing knowledge and popular discourse on Roma.

12.Today\'s antigypsyism may not
explicitly employ the notion of \'race\', but it conveys the same ideological concept by
postulating a distinct \'culture\' shared by and defining all members of the thus-
constructed group.
Antigypsyist ideology notably incorporates attributions that imply that \'gypsies\' are not
\'civilised\' enough. Accordingly, the semantic content projected onto \'the gypsies\' is
always that of those who do not share, accept, won\'t or have not yet internalised the
norms and values of dominant society. Locating potential failures and fractures of
these norms at the borders of or outside the imagined community a way of