Victoria R. Shmidt and Bernadette N. Jaworsky

Mar 31, 2021

Historicizing Roma in Central Europe

Between Critical Whiteness and Epistemic Injustice

Routledge 2020

In Central Europe, limited success in revisiting the role of science in the segregation of Roma reverberates with the yet-unmet call for contextualizing the impact of ideas on everyday racism. This book attempts to interpret such a gap as a case of epistemic injustice. It underscores the historical role of ideas in race-making and provides analytical lenses for exploring cross-border transfers of whiteness in Central Europe. In the case of Roma, the scientific argument in favor of segregation continues to play an outstanding role due to a long-term focus on the limited educability of Roma. 

In Historicizing Roma in Central Europe: Between Critical Whiteness and Epistemic Injustice (Routledge 2021), Victoria Shmidt and Bernadette N. Jaworsky trace the long-term interrelation between racializing Roma and the adaptation by Central European scholars of theories legitimizing segregation against those considered non-white, conceived as unable to become educated or "civilized." Along with legitimizing segregation, sterilization and even extermination, theorizing ineducability has laid the groundwork for negating the capacity of Roma as subjects of knowledge. Such negation has hindered practices of identity and quite literally prevented Roma in Central Europe from becoming who they are. This systematic epistemic injustice still echoes in contemporary attempts to historicize Roma in Central Europe. The authors critically investigate contemporary approaches to historicize Roma as reproducing whiteness and inevitably leading to various forms of epistemic injustice. The methodological approach herein conceptualizes critical whiteness as a practice of epistemic justice targeted at providing a sustainable platform for reflecting upon the impact of the past on the contemporary situation of Roma.

Victoria Shmidt brings together the issue of historical roots of segregation with the legacy of colonial and socialist policies in Central Eastern European countries. Since 2019 Victoria leads the project "Race science: Undiscovered Power of building the nations" at the University of Graz.

Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky is associate professor of sociology at Masaryk University, Brno (Czech Republic), and Faculty Fellow at Yale University’s Center for Cultural Sociology. 

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