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On the Roma Precarious Experience Facing Free Christianism
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies. UCRS, Uppsala University and Mälardalen university.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3442-187X
2015 (English)In: The New Social Division: Making and Unmaking Precariousness / [ed] Donatella della Porta, Sakari Hänninen, Martti Siisiäinen, Tiina Silvasti, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 139-158 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Globalization and the transition to a service society, together with a strengthening of neoliberalism in governance, led to a changing balance between capital and welfare and the growth of what Guy Standing (2011) has named the precariat. This implied declining labour security and labour costs and the increased flexibilization of labour. Grounds for eligibility to social rights weakened, and an increasing section of the labour force became excluded from these rights, while a rising proportion of the population found themselves unemployable and part of a growing underclass (Castells, 2010).

There is a need for further research concerning Central and Eastern European (CEE)[SPi1]  countries, which provide a specific context for the formation of the precariat due to their roots in state socialist regimes prior to the neoliberal turn. In addition, the impact of stratifying forces such as gender, ethnicity, and religion on the development of the precariat has been more neglected. Furthermore, the focus has been on processes generating precariousness and marginalization. Less attention has been paid to resilience and forces that can potentially counteract precarization. This chapter is intended to contribute to research concerning the three areas above. It will focus on the example of CEE Roma following post-socialist transition – a group identified as an ethnified/racialized underclass (Ladányi and Szelényi, 2004) – with special consideration given to dynamics of resilience and change.

Precariousness refers to a human condition threatened by falling outside. Roma communities, throughout their history, have been composed of groups that have suffered from exclusion and persecution. Their precariousness prevailed even during the state socialist period’s materialistically conceived social integration project, since the Roma constituted the unskilled reserve army of state socialist industrialization and they were constrained in their freedom of ethnic identity construction and association.

Post-socialist economic transition resulted in mass exclusion from the labour force, where the precarization of Roma intensified, since the shutting down of former heavy industries and mines led to the loss of unskilled jobs (Kemény et al., 2004; Kovács, 2008; Vajda and Dupcsik, 2008; Váradi, 2010; Bodrogi and Kádár, 2013). The period following the major epoch of transition has not led to the creation of work opportunities, allowing the integration of those who became marginalized in the first phase. Those Roma who live in peripheral rural communities can be seen as multiply marginalized, due to lower levels of education compared to majority society, higher levels of exclusion from the labour market, and geographic isolation from labour opportunities. Neoliberal and neoconservative turns in welfare policies displaced the state socialist models, in which work was both a right and a duty, opening for social rights (Szalai, 2007). The state transferred the task of poverty management to municipalities and to the civil sphere. These efforts to a large degree became conditional on local welfare regimes (Szalai, 2007; Asztalos Morell, 2011). Needs-based rights opened for moralizing between deserving and undeserving poor, where Romanness and undeservingness often unhappily associated in discourses concerning eligibility (Schwartz, 2012). Kligman (2001) argues that ‘“Roma” as a category has been expanded, in certain contexts, to essentialize a purported relationship between “race” and “poverty”’ (Kligman, 2001, p. 63). Thus in CEE, poverty obtained a ‘Roma face’ (p. 64) and Roma were accused of being poor due to their allegedly essentialist features.

Experiences of social and economic exclusion are often coupled with internal syndromes of social deprivation and anomy. One explanation for this anomy complementary to structural and discriminatory explanations is its association with a culture of poverty characterized by lack of long-term perspective and lack of trust both within the community and outwards (Ladányi and Szelényi, 2004).

Bourdieu (1986) explained the reproduction of social inequalities to be related to the differential accumulation and transfer between material and immaterial assets. This study focuses on the dynamic relation between the material and immaterial aspects of precariousness and approaches the role of norms as links of mediation between these spheres. From this perspective, religious beliefs can also be understood to rest on norms regulating conducts of life (Weber, 2003). Within this controlled and repressed sphere of religiosity of state socialism, non-established religious congregations occupied a specifically precarious situation. These religious movements were not only treated as sects and deviants by politics but were also resisted by the established churches. The Roma were typically deprived of religious practice and spiritual identity during this period, due to the unwelcoming attitude of main traditional churches. Conversely, missionizing among the Roma emerged among the non-established, so-called Free Christian congregations (Kopasz, 2011). During the post-socialist transition, most of the Roma continue to live under spiritual deprivation. Although most historical denominations have initiated specific Roma pastorations, Free Christian churches continue to be the most engaged in addressing Roma as subjects of religious transformation, offering them subjectivity and salvation through confession and religious revival according to the norms of the true believers (Bartl, 2013). The paramount role of free churches for the spiritual wakening of Roma communities has been internationally observed (Thurfjell and Marsh, 2014).

 [SPi1]AU: Expansion added at first instance. Please confirm.


Tiina: OK

Ildikó: OK 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 139-158 p.
Keyword [en]
free christian, Roma, precarity, poverty
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-274610ISBN: 978-1-137-50933-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-274610DiVA: diva2:897042
Negotiating poverty
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2016-01-24 Created: 2016-01-24 Last updated: 2016-01-24

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