Hate Speech or Genocidal Discourse? An Examination of Anti-Roma Sentiment in Contemporary Europe

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Emma Townsend


Roma in contemporary Europe are the frequent targets of hate speech and discriminatory state policies. Despite being the largest minority in the European Union with a population of 10-12 million, they are frequently denied a space in European society, and are widely perceived to be unchangeable and inherently ‘other’. As a result, Roma experience substantially inferior life conditions when compared to majority European populations. Despite the many recent European Union initiatives and action plans, such as the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015), the situation of Roma in contemporary Europe is not improving, and in some cases is actually worsening. This persecution is not a modern phenomenon; Roma have suffered stigmatisation and exclusion throughout their history in Europe. The severity and continuity of the persecution of Roma at the hands of a multitude of European authorities suggests the presence of an underlying motivation or intent that informs both the rhetoric about and treatment of Romani people. This paper will examine if the persecution of Roma in contemporary Europe is guided by a genocidal discourse. To this end, the boundaries between hate speech, genocidal discourse, and incitement to genocide will be scrutinised. It will be argued that both the way the Roma are spoken about and the treatment they receive are informed by a genocidal discourse that has endured relatively unchanged throughout their history in Europe. Roma are not just racially vilified, rather their culture as well as their physical presence in contemporary Europe are widely devalued in both words and in state action. Any improvement in their situation is therefore unlikely while this discourse continues.

Article Details

Stigma and Exclusion in Cross-Cultural Contexts Special Issue January 2014 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Emma Townsend, University of Queensland Brisbane, Queensland 4072

PhD Candidate Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect School of Political Science and International Studies