- Rethinking Roma. Identities, Politicisation and New Agendas by Ian Law and Martin Kovats
In recent years, we have seen a dynamic, passionate, and sometimes heated debate about the various aspects of the so-called Roma issues. Many Roma and non-Roma scholars and activists have discussed, for instance, the direction of European Roma politics, who should legitimately represent the Roma people in Europe and why, and how to preserve Roma heritage. There is an ongoing debate about the shape future studies of the Romani people will take. One thing needs to be emphasized here: such discourse and reflections are necessary for change, improvement, and progress. However, given such sensitive polemic, it is very easy to be ruled by emotions and focus on particular interests. Ian Law and Martin Kovats manage to avoid this and develop a very complex, multifaceted, well-balanced and well-argued body of knowledge on the matter of Roma identity as a result of politicization, both on the European and national level. Rather than simply researching the implications of contemporary European Roma policy, they analyze recent developments through the lens of racialization and racist tendencies creeping into neoliberal governmentality. They are also not afraid to call out the abuse of, as they call it, Roma-ness for furthering political agendas. It is therefore fitting that the book was published in the series, Mapping Global Racism.
Ian Law, an expert on racism and ethnicity studies, engages in a fruitful cooperation with Martin Kovats to research the politicies surrounding the Roma people and to observe the implementation across a number of years, resulting in a very concise and much needed take on the motivations behind the development of policies relating to the European Roma in the twenty-first century. This highly effective collaboration introduced a new dimension in the way we look at Roma policy. Law and Kovats provide readers with a thought-provoking and quite novel approach towards the contemporary instrumental use of Roma identity. This identity is rightly presented as a very voluminous and elastic label assigned to a very diverse group of people, though some of these people do not feel they are a part of this category. Although such theses as: [End Page 121]
It would not be inaccurate to say that, with the exception of Romani and certain cultural practices (which are limited to only some communities), Roma people often have more in common with their non-Roma neighbours than with other Roma. The one thing that all these people have in common is that they have been included in the Roma political phenomenon.(p. 36)
may be deemed controversial or incomplete by some,1 the authors’ intention to take socio-economic national and local contexts into consideration in opposition to the Europeanization of Roma identity becomes apparent after an analysis of all chapters.
Law and Kovats develop their theories in a structured manner, consisting of an introduction, six chapters, each followed by references, and comprehensive references at the end of the book. Each part analyses notions of “Roma” and the Roma people identity from different perspectives and in different contexts, suggesting a division into three main forms and understandings: as a concept, as an agenda item, and as a constructed public political identity.
Some parts of the Introduction and Chapter 1 comment on the emergence of EU Roma politics, also discussing the influence of migration and perceptions of the Roma people in Europe on the current shape and premises of Roma politics. The authors note that 30 years ago, the notion of the Roma was virtually non-existent on a wider scale. The rise of Roma politics in the last three decades, especially after 2011, and the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies elevated the group so its people could engage more in activism and public life. It also brought about the creation of the Roma identity as a dynamic and transformative political concept for the identity of a certain people – a people that are not...