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Svensk antiziganism: Fördomens kontinuitet och förändringens förutsättningar
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, The Hugo Valentin Centre.
2013 (Swedish)Book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

English summary

The subject of this study is prejudice, discrimination and persecution of Swedish Roma in a long-term perspective. It offers a historical analysis of the establishment of hegemonic views on Roma, counter-discourse and discursive shifts as reflected in local incidents and politics. Theoretically, the notion of antiziganism (anti-Gypsyism) is derived as a discursive formation, directed against the ”conceptual gypsy”: a historically constructed imago out of social, religious and racial prejudice that is being projected onto Roma and other persons. This perspective relates to social constructionist views on antiziganism as developed primarily by German and Dutch scholars (see Hamburger, Lucassen, Willems), which up to now have had virtually no influence in Swedish research (one exception is the BA thesis of Brisenstam).

In the first chapter, the academic roots of antiziganism are explored. The source material is selected in order to discuss interdiscursivity between non-fictional gypsology literature of the 18th and the 20th Centuries: the influential work of the German historian Heinrich Moritz Grellmann compared to the Swedish doctoral dissertations of Samuel P. Björckman (1730) and Laurentius Rabenius (1791), the threefold documentary Zigenare of the popular proletarian school writer Ivar Lo-Johansson (parts first published in 1929, 1955 and 1963), the civil rights intervention of Katarina Taikon out of a Roma discourse position (Zigenare är vi from 1963) and finally Karl-Olov Arnstbergs controversial study Svenskar och zigenare (1998). The analysis stances a strong link between the academic antiziganism of the 18th and the 20th centuries: the notion of Roma culture as essentially antisocial thus to be combated by forced assimilation, immigrating Roma as ungrateful to the generosity of the hosts and antiziganism as caused by Roma behaviour. The continuity is obvious as well in the use of reoccurring reference codes, such as typologies of crimes labelled as ”Gypsy”, whose appearance in a circular way are being used as argument for the pasting of the label Gypsy on actual and supposed Roma. The study also makes biological racism visible as part of Swedish antiziganism and in the case of Lo-Johansson clarifies the meaning of philoziganism as excluding and essentialist in its romantic projections on Roma. Further, the study shows that ”zigenare” (Gypsy), as the notion “tattare” (traveller-Gypsy), in Swedish is unambiguously linked to a pejorative discourse: though in all discussed works derived out of references to, but not always referring to Roma, and thus considered unsuitable as well as unethical as analytical notion. Following this conclusion, this work uses the terminology preferred by the minorities themselves, namely Roma and Resande, well aware of the fact, that it might sometimes be unclear to what ethnic groups the sources are referring when using “zigenare” and “tattare”.

The second chapter analyses the development of antiziganist practice the period 1890-1945 as negotiated in interconnected political discourses, each of which were only partly referring to Roma and Resande. In this period, due to the proletarisation of the rural population, Sweden faced what was considered to be a vagrancy problem: large groups of unemployed people without permanent residents. Within this group are Roma to be found, who had immigrated from Eastern Europe at the turn of the century, but also the, at least partly, romani-speaking domestic ethnic minority Resande. If up to now, the terms zigenare and tattare without distinction had been used as labels for these groups, due to the influence of nationalism and racial biology, the groups were now officially being distinguished: from now on, zigenare was used for the recently immigrated Roma, who according to the new policy were considered as unwanted foreigners, which should best be kept out of the country. The explicit immigration prohibit against zigenare, which was introduced 1914 lasted until 1954. Consequently, during the Nazi era, the Swedish doors were closed to Roma refugees. In a state declaration of 1923(SOU 1923:2), local authorities were instructed how to refuse Roma camps and disturb traditional trades. The explicit aim was to make the living of Swedish Roma so hard, that they would prefer to leave the country. Following this policy, local authorities and the church could refuse to register Roma as citizens. As a consequence, most of the Roma became a national minority sans papiers, without legal and social rights. The tattare were seen as an unwanted “racial mixture between Swedes and Gypsies”, but still as Swedish citizens. Adapting the repertoire of antiziganism, members of this group were per birth seen to be antisocial and different means of forced assimilation were discussed, among others to separate all Resande children from their parents and to put whole families in re-education work camps. Both strategies had been adapted in Norway, out-sourced by the state to the Christian Omstreiferemissionen (Gypsy mission). Forced sterilization was another means discussed in this context. None of these strategies were actually full-scale introduced in Sweden. The reason for not using the Norwegian method against zigenare, was that they were seen as impossible to assimilate. As for the tattare, the Norwegian method was rejected mainly since it seemed impossible to define who belonged to the group at a time when the hegemony of racial biology was fading. Thus, the nation-wide “tattare”-inventory of the National Board of Health and Welfare in 1944 was registering “tattare” to a large extent based on assumed lifestyle or by gibbeting by local officials.  Yet the threat of forced child foster care and forced sterilization were used as tools of discipline. According to research, people labelled as tattare as well as people actually identifying themselves as Resande have been clearly over-represented as victims of those measures, which are a painful part of the collective memory of Swedish Resande.

The third chapter examines the practice of antiziganism at a local level in two well-documented cases: the Jönköping riots against Resande in 1948 and the illegal deportation of a Roma camp from Ludvika 1956. The Jönköping case is analysed as a chain of incidents, which started as micro-conflicts between some persons living in the poorest part of the city and ended with full-scale riots. The initial causes were not overtly racist, but the conflict escalated as it was racialised by the news-paper coverage, including comments from the police and state officials as a legitimate “peoples´ fury against tattare”. A second finding is that Resande were discriminated by the police and in the trials following: racist remarks were accepted expressions in court, Resande testimony were attended little credibility and their legal claims denied. Thus, this study presents evidence, which confirms assertions of legal bias against Resande in research based on oral history (Lindholm, Hazell). The Ludvika case depicts the cumulative discourse on one incident of police force intervention against Roma, which was accidentally payed national attention to and put to trial by an initative of the Ombudsmen for Justice (JO) as a possible incident of ethnic discrimination. The Roma claimed their right to put up their tents on a public camping spot. The local authorities, who already a priori had declared that “zigenare” camps were unwanted, claimed that the Roma had bin disturbing the order. The documents of the investigation give an insight in the views of locals, the police and the Roma. Finally, the Svea court of appeal convicted the police officer, as he did not have the right to, after an orally proclaimed ad hoc-decision by the mayor, forcely remove the Roma. However, it was not seen as an act of ethnic discrimination. This study unveils the practice of local authorities adapting the above mentioned 1923-policy against Roma camps and – which is the most important finding – answers the question why no documents have been found by researchers to confirm recollections of forced camp expulsions in autho-biographic litterature Roma (Taikon, Caldaras).

The fourth chapter analyses the first major attempt in Swedish state level politics to abandon the path of repression against Roma. Already in 1930s, the Kelderash Rom spokesman Johan Dimitri Taikon had claimed Roma rights to attend public schools. The National board of Health and Welfare had, as parallel to the “tattare”-investigation, in 1944 concluded that the Roma had not left Sweden, but were living under socially unacceptable conditions.  Formally Swedes, they were not in the position to claim any civil rights. In the 1940s a Swedish Gypsy mission was founded with the primary goal of assimilating the Roma. In 1952 the Communist party demanded an investigation of the racial discrimination of the Swedish Roma. The Social democrats soon addressed the question in another way, which was to be formative of the new Swedish Roma politics. In this perspective, the problem was how the Roma should not be left aside, but part of the rapid Swedish economic, social and educational development. The main material for my study in this part is the archive of the major “Gypsy investigation”, which in the years 1954-1956 on behalf of the government analysed the situation of Swedish Roma and the possibilities. Notably, the Resande minority was seen as part of this issue, thus this political revision did not have any impact on the discrimination of Resande. The documents of the “Gypsy investigation”, give an insight in the poverty, exclusion and out-right racism, which the Roma were still facing. One finding of my analysis is that the political revision was imposed from the state level, and did not correspond to a changed thinking at the local level. Another finding is that the methods of the investigation were clearly within the framework of antiziganist discourse, which is a paradoxon: a full scaled inventory was carried out by the police, which was instructed to register full- half- and quarter-zigenare, the follow-up survey was carried out by the ethnologist Carl-Herman Tillhagen, who concluded that the Roma were “big children”, in the need for a non-Roma “real man” to take care for their needs. Nevertheless, the outcome of this investigation was a program of voluntary assimilation, which slowly gave Roma access to schools, housing and civil rights. However, these goals were not reached until almost 20 years. Needless to say, is that the cultural rights of Roma were completely neglected and the forthcoming expansion and diversification of the Roma community due to immigration in the decades to come remained unforeseen.

The fifth chapter analyses the process of working through the past (Adorno) since the turn of the millennium, were state-level-policy is to overtly reject antiziganism of the past and in the present. The impetus to this development came from two directions: Firstly, the Swedish government´s initiatives – curbed by the media and by American inquiries – to scrutinize the Swedish role during Nazism and the Holocaust had established a discourse on historical responsibility, which was adaptable also on the Roma and Resande issue (Selling 2011). Secondly, the implementation of the European Frame convention on minority rights included a retrospective scrutiny and a plan for integration. Roma, including Resande, were declared to be a national minority. The first step of this process was declarations of historical responsibility by the Social democratic government and by the Swedish church in 2000. The second step was to explore what exactly had happened. Several state-investigations were carried out. The most comprehensive investigation, by the Delegation for Roma issues, stated that the still lasting discrimination of Roma was caused by structural antiziganism and a deeply rooted prejudice. The Delegation concluded, following the Norwegian example, that the Swedish history of antiziganism must be further explored by an independent commission and consequently compensated for at a collective level, in terms of a foundation and a museum. Further, a program for Roma inclusion was demanded. The centre-right government decided only to follow the latter demand, whereas they rejected the idea of an independent commission and collective compensation. Instead a white paper (Vitbok) on the Swedish discrimination of Roma in the 20th century was ordered. This decision was criticised especially by representatives of the Resande community and by members of the Delegation. Another dispute was caused by the 2010 Swedish parliament´s apology to the victims of abuse in state child care, which did not mention the effect of the racist discourse, that Resande were over-represented. Further, the Swedish church apology of 2000 has been criticised for not being followed by any concrete measures of inclusion, and above all, that it was too vague. The latter allegation is confirmed in this study, which shows, that the church up to this day has not apologized for their ideological and administrative role in the antiziganism of the 1920s-1940s and not for racist statements by priests as documented in the archives of the 1956 investigation. Finally, this chapter examines a case of atavism, as the minister of migration in 2010 defended the illegal expulsion of Roma beggars and street musicians: the Stockholm police had made use of no longer valid legislation on vagrancy and adapted exlusively on Roma. This practice was condemned by the European Commissioner for Human Rights and by the Swedish JO, which however, similar to the Ludvika case, condemned the police practice, but was unable to see the ethnic discrimination. My conclusion of this case is that the Swedish way of discriminating Roma without saying so is bound to reoccur, as long as antiziganist thinking is wide-spread and accepted.

The closing chapter offers a theoretical discussion on antiziganism in general, and in particular in the Swedish case. antiziganism isanalysed as a discursive formation constituted by the node „conceptual Gypsy“: an essentialist andexcluding construct which has developed historically in interacting academic,religious and political discourses. Other than the notions as Romaphobia anti-Romaism, this social constructionist approach does not focus on majoritysociety´s experience of actual Roma, but on the fictional character of theconceptual Gypsy, which in antiziganist discourse is projected onto Roma andother persons. The research task would be to identify the content and functionof the concept in the context at hand. By reference to my historical researchon Swedish antiziganism and to international researchers, I discuss modes ofantiziganism as based on cultural, social and biological racist concepts. Thearticle argues that the use of certain notions parallel to those of antisemitismresearch is fruitful. Philoziganismis regarded as a specific mode, which is not primary hostile towards thesignified, but still is essentialist and excluding. The notion of structural antiziganism is demonstratedin a critical analysis of the Swedish assimilation project as well as by thedeficient implementation of Roma civil and minority rights. The concept of secondary antiziganism is considered asa possible means of analysing ambiguous political positions to Roma rights.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Limhamn: Sekel Bokförlag, 2013, 1. , 218 p.
Keyword [sv]
antiziganism, romer, resande, Sverige
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-211629ISBN: 9789187199134OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-211629DiVA: diva2:667670
Available from: 2013-11-27 Created: 2013-11-27 Last updated: 2013-11-29

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