Constructing Identities over Time

“Bad Gypsies” and “Good Roma” in Russia and Hungary
$65.00 / €55.00 / £47.00
PDF version is available in open access thanks to the libraries supporting CEU Press’s Opening the Future initiative.
Publication date: 
December, 238 pages, 4 tables, 17 figures
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Jekatyerina Dunajeva explores how two dominant stereotypes—“bad Gypsies” and “good Roma”—took hold in formal and informal educational institutions in Russia and Hungary. She shows that over centuries “Gypsies” came to be associated with criminality, lack of education, and backwardness. The second notion, of proud, empowered, and educated “Roma,” is a more recent development.

By identifying five historical phases—pre-modern, early-modern, early and “ripe” communism, and neomodern nation-building—the book captures crucial legacies that deepen social divisions and normalize the constructed group images. The analysis of the state-managed Roma identity project in the brief korenizatsija program for the integration of non-Russian nationalities into the Soviet civil service in the 1920s is particularly revealing, while the critique of contemporary endeavors is a valuable resource for policy makers and civic activists alike.

The top-down view is complemented with the bottom-up attention to everyday Roma voices. Personal stories reveal how identities operate in daily life, as Dunajeva brings out hidden narratives and subaltern discourse. Her handling of fieldwork and self-reflexivity is a model of sensitive research with vulnerable groups.


Part I. Introduction

Chapter 1: Author's Purpose
Personal Note
Roma and Romani Studies
Notes on Methodology
Structure and Subject of the Book

Chapter 2: Theories and Concepts—State, Nation, and Identity
Homogenization Efforts during State and Nation Building
Managing the Population and Classifying Identities
Comparative and Historical Study
Roma in Hungary and Russia throughout Time

Part II. Bad Gypsies and Good Roma in Historical Perspective

Chapter 3: Early Nation and State Building in Empires
Early State and Nation Building: Control over the “Other”
Enduring “Backwardness”
Chapter 4: The End of Empires
The End of Empires: World War One and the 1917 Revolution
Soviet Nativization Policies in the 1920s and ’30s
Hungary after the Treaty of Trianon
A Note on the Holocaust
Chapter 5: State Socialism (1945–1989)
Assimilationist Campaigns
Political Education in State-Socialist Schools
Categorization of Roma: Legacies of Socialist Identity Politics and Critical Voices

Part III. Contemporary Identity Formation

Chapter 6: Fieldwork
Fieldwork and Positionality
Ethnography: Ethics, Reflexivity, and Positionality
Chapter 7: "Bad Gypsies"—Negotiation of Identities in Primary Schools

Neo-Modern State Building: National Revival and Patriotic Youth
'Bad Gypsies' in Segregated Schools
Disciplining 'Bad Gypsies' in Classrooms
Reproducing and Contesting Stereotypes
Chapter 8: Making Good Roma from Bad Gypsies
Contemporary Antigypsyism
Pro-Roma Civil Society’s Roots, Goals, and Projects
Negotiation of Identity and Non-state Actors
Chapter 9: Negotiating Identity
Identity Struggles
Identity and Belonging
Kinship and Community

Part IV. Concluding Remarks

Chapter 10: Summary and Best Practices


“Constructing Identities over Time is a ground-breaking book both in its breadth and depth. Jekatyerina Dunajeva boldly compares the construction of Romani identities in Hungary and Russia from the vantage point of both states/institutions and communities. Her thorough historical research on socialism/postsocialism in two locations show how Roma have strategized around stereotypical labeling embedded in multiple exclusions. Combining political theory with fine-grained ethnographic fieldwork, Dunajeva takes us inside school classrooms, playgrounds and lunchrooms, and into NGOs and community life, while always honestly reflecting on her own positionality. This book should be required reading for all students and scholars of Eastern Europe.”
"Where the book by Jekatyerina Dunajeva differs from others is in its combination of historical and ethnographic study, in the richness of the material explored and analysed and in the ways in which it problematizes the very labels it analyses. The key strength of the book lies in its attempt to offer new and critical perspectives in the study of Roma identity and Roma ethnicity, over time. It thus provides a wonderful addition and contribution to the field of Romani Studies, while also being of interest to scholars of ethnicity, nationalism, European history and minorities more broadly."
“Dunajeva’s very important book provides an excellent and unique historical analysis of ethnic stereotypes developed and mobilized through formal and informal educational institutions. While educational oppression of the Roma population has received considerable attention, few studies provide a rich historical background and tackle the way education shapes and distorts identities. Dunajeva’s research fills this gap by exposing the role of education in the creation of the ‘other’. A great contribution to the field that still shies away from combining historical analysis with contemporary narrative and inductive methodology.”
“An important contribution to the study of politics and the lived experience of identity on the margins. Dunajeva weaves together impressive historical and empirical research of Romani communities in Hungary and Russia to teach us about nationhood, state power, and the negotiation of belonging. This is a must-read book for students, policy-makers, and activists interested in how identities are shaped and sharpened in schools and why patterns of Roma marginalization persist.”
"This is a profoundly interesting book, if also not, in its argumentation and conclusions, an especially original one. Written in an accessible style and intended for a general audience, Dunajeva’s monograph is based on a solid documentary base. Her ethnographic research in Roma communities makes the work a substantial contribution to Romani scholarship."