Publics otherwise : the poetics of exclusion facing Roma communities in illiberal Hungary

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2023-04-14

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Tyeklar, Nora

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This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the exclusion of Roma in northeastern Hungary and its social impacts on Roma communities. Based on 21 months of fieldwork in the region, I argue that pharrajimos—a Romani word meaning “fragmentation” or “cutting up” also used to name the Roma Holocaust—shapes how Roma communities in Hungary experience exclusion, evictability, and deportability through what I call neo-pharrajimos, or new, material, and affective forms of anti-Roma ideology that recur into the present. The entangled poetics of evictability and deportability facing Roma endure as racialized chronotopes that are disappeared through the fragmenting impacts of anti-Roma racism structuring Hungarian illiberalism, but have real material impacts including homelessness and loss of public benefits. Ethnographically engaging with various interactional and narrative genres of neo-pharrajimos, this work points to the ways in which Roma collectively and personally conduct themselves otherwise by moving away from direct forms of confrontation in response to the slow liquidation of publics in which Roma can be heard, in which their voices are audible. Methodologically I track this process and its implications for the possibility of addressing social inequalities through analyses of (1) a speech performed by a Roma activist during a demonstration in solidarity with refugees arriving at Hungary’s southern border in the summer of 2015, (2) slogans imprinted on large banners used by activists protesting a discriminatory housing decree disproportionately affecting Roma community members, and (3) narratives as related by former Roma refugee claimants whose refugee claims were rejected in Canada forcing them to return to Hungary. Analyses of the racialized erasures and removals taking place in ordinary life in post-socialist, illiberal Hungary reveal a deep inability to reckon with its own past as it articulates its relationship with the shared values of the European Union.

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