Roma and Nordic Societies

Roma and Nordic Societies - Historical security practices of the majority and strategies of the minority

Project funded by the Academy of Finland 2015-2018

The project explores different understandings of societal security concerning the national Roma groups in the Nordic countries, particularly in Finland, from the early years of the Nordic welfare states until the present day. The project conduct on the topic by asking the following two questions: 1) How has the majority population, either through formal and explicit state policies or informal and subtle means, safeguarded its own sense of security and undermined the security of the national Roma groups since the 1930s? 2) What kinds of strategies have the Roma people used to achieve both an ‘individual’ and a ‘communal’ sense of societal security?

The project members approach the questions by focusing on four research themes:

1) The majority’s biased view of the Roma minority from the perspective of everyday communication such as majority tales and jokes about the Roma.

2) Plans, measures and international co-operation of state authorities against Roma groups during the early years of the Nordic welfare states, which coincided historically with the period of Fascism and National Socialism.

3) The memory policy of Finnish Roma regarding nationhood, for example, Roma participation in wartime military service and its impact on their societal equality and security within the majority society;

4) The impact of Finnish Roma conversions to Evangelical movements on their social mobility and the process of integration within the majority society. These four cases illustrate the interplay between the majority and the Roma minority on the topic of societal security.

This project will focus on questions which have been little studied in previous Roma scholarship. The researchers will use a set of new archival materials, combining them with ethnographic fieldwork. For this purpose, one of the researchers is living with a Finnish Roma family. Bridging the boundaries between several disciplines, the project contributes to interdisciplinary discussion and issues a challenge to the ideal image of the Nordic countries regarding social and economic equality related to general welfare and societal security. At the same time, there is a strong need for social and political integration of Roma people.

Project members:

Professor Peter Stadius (PI)

PhD Eija Stark

PhD Malte Gasche

PhD, Docent, Simo Muir

MA Raluca Bianca Roman