War against the Poor: Social Violence Against Roma in Eastern Europe During COVID-19 at the Intersection of Class and Race
Keywords:Roma, Eastern Europe, historical pandemics, cholera, Covid-19, race, class, social violence
This article positions the social violence against Roma in Eastern Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic in historical perspective. It is based on primary data derived from the project Marginality on the Margins of Europe – The Impact of COVID-19 on Roma Communities in Non-EU Countries in Eastern Europe, collected in 2020 by researchers in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine. This data is contextualised with the help of secondary literature on historical epidemics and pandemics, as well as societal responses to them, with a particular focus on the ensuing scapegoating of minorities in certain cases. The article first makes the case for the importance of historicising such responses to pandemics in different contexts as a safeguard against ‘exceptionalising’ either the ongoing pandemic or the Roma minority. Further, it argues against a reductionist perspective that treats the Roma primarily – or even exclusively – along the lines of their representing a ‘national minority’, a concept that is heavily tilted toward a cultural-linguistic definition of the group. In contrast, it posits that hate speech and racist incidents against the Roma in the context of the pandemic (and more generally) are better understood by factoring in the intersection of race and class, where the long-standing racialization of the Roma in Eastern Europe is inflected by the latter as much as the former. Finally, zooming out from the case study under consideration to consider other instances of ‘Othering’ encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, it draws attention to the different scales at which exclusion operates, and to the advantages provided by an awareness of the multiple spatial and temporal layers constitutive of such a scalar approach.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Raul Cârstocea
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