Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, Charles University, Prague

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1999
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Washington
A Matter of Speaking: Racism, Gender and Social Deviance in the Politics of the 'Gypsy Question' in Communist Czechoslovakia, 1945-1989

This dissertation will explore the "Gypsy question" in communist Czechoslovakia and examine what the policies toward Gypsies, a marginal ethnic group, tell us about citizenship and the relationship of state and society under Czechoslovak communism. In particular, the project sets to investigate how and why concerns about sexuality and reproduction replaced the rhetoric of ethnicity as the crucial components of state policies dealing with Gypsies. shift in focus facilitated the dismissal of Gypsy ethnic difference as mere social deviance and allowed the non-Gypsy majority in Czechoslovakia to collectively deal with its anxiety about Gypsies without explicitly referring to their ethnicity and without comprehending the ethnic and racial dimensions of those encounters. obliviousness and ignorance of issues of ethnicity ultimately led, I suggest, to the shocking radicalization of ethnic violence in Czechoslovakia after 1989. Focusing on the discrepancies between written laws/policies (that were ethnicity-neutral) and their implementation (which targeted Gypsies, denying them basic civil and human rights), this dissertation hopes to expose the intricate relationship between official beliefs, institutional policies and popular consciousness under the communist regime. For it was these relationships that informed each other and together created the mechanisms of social control that enabled the discrimination of Czechoslovak Gypsies to flourish under the guise of social welfare. The study will also examine how Gypsies themselves understood and participated in the process of assimilation and in what ways they resisted it, paying particular attention to the ways in which Gypsies (and especially Gypsy women) at times transformed the practices meant to control them to their advantage. Simultaneously, the project will explore how the same policies designed to combat the "Gypsy problem" also functioned to contain "Czechoslovak" women and to control their sexuality, asserting patriarchy and traditional gender roles as the necessary prerequisites of socialist "Czechoslovakness."