Negotiating ethnic belongings in post-/migrant Romani communities in Austria Barbara Tiefenbacher

About the project

In my PhD thesis I compare the negotiation and construction of ethnic belongings in two different Romani communities: I deal with descendants of former Yugoslav Romani “guest workers” in Vienna, who in the 2nd generation have achieved social upward mobility through university education and – just like their parents – are not perceived publicly as Romani. Furthermore, I focus on present migrants from South Slovakia to Austria´s second largest city of Graz, where they engage in busking, mendicancy and vending street papers. Migrants in this context are marked and perceived as Romani.

Hence the main research question poses the questions in which situations are which markers responsible for the construction of Romani or other ethnic belongings and which consequences go along with it; and how do persons negotiate Romani or other ethnic belongings?

The research is centred upon biographical-narrative interviews, which I carried out in German and Slovak with members of both communities in Vienna and Graz.

Based on the life stories of people who are situated in different social, professional and nation-state settings but who all declare Romani belonging, I could point out the dynamics of ethnic belongings that are influenced by various factors and situations. Persons, who position themselves as Romani refer also to other ethnic belongings depending on the situation. Further, they are also differently ethnicized by others and Romani ascription is not always the most relevant one. Therefore, it can be concluded that Romani belonging is not stable, but “it depends on the situation”, as one interviewee puts it in a nutshell.


Dr. Barbara Tiefenbacher studied Slavonic Studies with a special focus on
Romani Studies and Sociology in Vienna and Prague. Research and study visits in Budapest, Birmingham (UK), Serbia and Slovakia. In 2007/08 she participated in the European Voluntary Service in a leisure time centre for children and youth in a segregated Romani village in Slovakia. Since 2009 she is elected member of the board and editorial board of the association Romano Centro Vienna. 
2010-2014 research fellow at the Universities of Graz and Vienna.
Research: Central and Eastern Europe, Romani Studies, Migration Studies and Race & Ethnicity Studies.
Keywords: socio-economic exclusion of Romani Communities, Migration, poverty migration (begging), social inequality, 2nd generation, social mobility, ethnic belongings, discrimination and racism. 

Publications (selection)

„Weil die Weißen es so möchten.“ Rassismus gegen Roma / Romnija in der Slowakei aus der Perspektive der Critical Whiteness Studies – eine Annäherung. In: Drews-Sylla, Gesine & Makarska, Renata (ed.): Neue alte Rassismen? Differenz und Exklusion in Europa nach 1989. Bielefeld 2014. [in print]

Stable concepts in shifting contexts? Promising theoretical approaches to discussions  of Romani belonging in Central Europe. In: Schrammel-Leber, Barbara & Tiefenbacher, Barbara (ed.): Romani V. Papers from the Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society, Graz 2011. Grazer Romani Publikationen 2, Grazer Linguistische Monographien: Graz 2013, 135-148 (with S. Benedik & W. Göderle). (Peer reviewed)

Context and effects of development projects responding to transnational migrations of Romani women and men in present Central Europe. In: Zeitgeschichte 40/5 (2013), 287-304 (with S. Benedik & H. Zettelbauer). (Peer reviewed)

Identifying “Roma” or Constructing “the Other”? Slovak Romani Men and Women in Processes of Identification. In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues, Vol.10 (2013), 249-268. (Peer reviewed)

Begging in the “West” as exit-strategy of poverty-stricken Romani communities. In: Antall József Knowledge Centre (ed.): Multiculturalism –Trap or Chance? Budapest 2013, 65-67. [Based on a workshop organised by the Central European Initiative]

Die imaginierte „Bettlerflut“. Migrationen von Roma und Romnija – Konstrukte und Positionen. Klagenfurt / Celovec: Drava 2013 (with S. Benedik & H. Zettelbauer).
Rozvoj v pohybu. Souvislosti a důsledky transnacionální migrace Romů a Romek z okresu Rimavská Sobota/Rimaszombat (Slovensko) do Grazu (Rakousko). In: Romano Džaniben. Časopis romistických studií 17/1 (2011), 27-50 (with S. Benedik & E. Szénássy). (Peer reviewed)

Der unnütze Fleiß der „Arbeitsscheuen“. Unterstellte Arbeitsunwilligkeit als Kontinuität rassistischer NS-Festschreibungen von RomNija. In: Bolyos, Lisa & Morawek, Katharina (ed.): Diktatorpuppe zerstört, Schaden gering. Kunst und Geschichtspolitik im Postnazismus. Wien: Mandelbaum Verlag 2012, 189-195 (with S. Benedik).
Cucumbers Fighting Migrations. The Contribution of NGOs to the Perception of Temporary Romany Migrations from Medovce-Metete/Slovakia. In: Stewart, Michael (ed.): The Gypsy ‚Menace’. Populism and the New Anti-Gypsy Politics. London: Hurst 2012, 217-240 (with S. Benedik & W. Göderle).

"Ihr Roma könnt nur singen und tanzen, aber lernen könnt ihr nicht!" Interdependenzen zwischen Ethnisierung und Benachteiligungen im Bereich der Schulbildung am Beispiel der Situation von RomNija in der Slowakei und in Österreich. In: Gössl, Martin (ed.): Diversität als Bildungsfaktor (= Schriften zum Bildungsrecht und zur Bildungspolitik). Wien 2012, 115-148 (with S. Benedik).

Auf der Suche nach den „wahren Merkmalen“. Beispiele für Ethnisierungen von RomNija in der österreichischen und slowakischen Presse. In: Kriwak, Andreas (ed.): Medien und Minderheiten. Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press 2012, 215-235 (with S. Benedik).

Gegen-/ Neben-/ Miteinander? Geschichte und Gegenwart österreichischer Roma und Romnija. In: SIAK-Journal. Zeitschrift für Polizeiwissenschaften und Polizeiliche Praxis 3 (2011), 46-56 (with W. Göderle).

Komunistická jazyková asimilácia a etnoemancipačné hnutie a ich dôsledky na používanie rómštiny v rómskej menšine v Českej republike. Kvalitatívna prípadová štúdia. In: Balvin, Jaroslav & Vavreková, Lenka et al. (ed.): Interkulturalita a národnostné menšiny: v sociálnych, filozofických, pedagogických, kultúrnych, historických a prírodovedných súvislostiach. Zborník z medzinárodnej vedeckej konferencie konanej  22.-23. októbra 2008 v Nitre. InterRRa 6.: Spišská Nová Ves 2008, 246-250.