Participatory action and migration biographies of Romani migrants in Vienna


The City of Vienna represents itself as a city characterized by migration and the diversity of its inhabitants. Whereas diversity and migration are represented as a positive resource, integration is seen as one of the big challenges for the future of the city. One specific area is the political participation of migrants. The project, sponsored by the Magistratsabteilung 7 of the City of Vienna, focuses on the possibilities of participation and political activism of Romani migrants in Vienna.

In Vienna, the majority of Romani population (estimated 100.000) has migrated from Southeast and East Europe during the last few decades. Romani migrants are perceived as a ‘new minority’. As such they are confronted with specific forms of discrimination and marginalisation that are directed against them both as Roma/Romnja and migrants. The socio-political inclusion of Romani migrants in Vienna is hampered not only by antigypsyism and xenophobia but also by the heterogeneity of Romani communities. Romani migrants experience different challenges and needs regarding their integration into society due to various national and religious affiliations as well as internal differences regarding age, gender and socioeconomic position. Thus, the ‘postmigrant experiences’ (Hill and Qildiz 2015) of migrants in general and Romani migrants in particular challenge the hegemonic perceptions of integration: Despite the experience of discrimination as well as a heterogeneity of experience and needs, Romani migrants in Vienna are actively voicing their interests and demands vis-à-vis society and politics. Whereas the political mobilisation and representation of autochthonous Roma/Romnja in Vienna is very well documented, there is an academic void regarding the participatory action and postmigrant experience of Romani migrants.

The interconnection of migratory experience and the participatory action of Romani migrants is the starting point of the research project, that is guided by the following questions: How and under which circumstances does civil participation of Romani migrants develops? Which resources and networks do Romani migrants use? How do Romani associations and the involved actors deal with the heterogeneity of Romani communities? Focusing on the agency and possibilities of political participation of Romani migrants the project aims to look beyond dominant discourses on integration and ‘parallel societies’ as well as images of Romani victimhood and passivity.