Romani Studies

Belonging, mobility, and the socialist policies in Kapišová, Slovakia

Romani Studies (2022), 32, (1), 23–50.


The article focuses on the local practice of the central policies of socialist Czechoslovakia that aimed to regulate the movement of the Roma, namely the legal efforts to settle nomadic persons and subsequently the plan of controlled resettlement of the Roma from eastern Slovakia to the Bohemian lands. Although migration was a shared experience of the inhabitants of a historically marginalized region of eastern Slovakia, the mobility of the Roma was securitized and understood in central policies as a qualitatively different movement of the “Gypsies.” Focusing primarily on life trajectories of the Roma that were all connected to the social space of a particular municipality in north-eastern Slovakia, the study examines the ways in which various aspects of their mobility affected negotiations of their ambivalent position in the local hierarchy of socioeconomic relations. Particularly, it shows that in spite of the realization of these restrictive policies, some Roma were able to maintain not only the continuity of migration as an independent economic strategy, but also the continuity of local belonging, even with the help of other non-Romani actors. This locally focused study contributes to a broader debate about the character of the Roma’s agency and their social position in Central and Eastern Europe (see e.g. Marushiakova and Popov 2021). On the one hand it strives to break up with the idea of homogeneity of the Roma experience vis-à-vis the socialist policies, and on the other it builds on the research into the relationship between local belonging and (self-)identification of the Roma.

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Author details

Ort, Jan