Those Who Count
Expert Practices of Roma Classification
Mihai Surdu was a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study at Central European University, postdoctoral research fellow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and fellow of the Open Society Roma Initiatives. Presently, he is working on a project related to population thinking and categorization in life sciences at the Chair in Science and Technology Studies of the University College Freiburg.
The way in which researchers, experts and scientists classify people—in this case the Roma—can have serious consequences. Highly repetitive Roma-related themes and in conjunction with mass media production, the topics such as poverty, lack of education, unemployment and welfare dependency, and all these were transformed into an iconic depiction of Roma. A critical reading of Roma-related literature illuminates the implications of the objectification of people's private lives, and that the scientific and expert findings circulated by Roma-related research are highly influenced by the political regimes in power.
As a result of this a consistently negative image of Roma persists. Many of those labeled as Roma internalize these enduring stereotypes, which limits their expectations, and often negatively influences their life course.
In the author’s view, the best way is not to analyze the Roma themselves (since ethnic identity is contextual and fluid) but to look at their various classifiers—and especially to the expert categorizers—and to the various means of objectification. The study contributes to a critical debate which could lead to more sensitivity, more prudent assumptions, descriptions and methodological designs, and may assist in depoliticizing Roma ethnicity.
282 pages, 2016
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