Publication details

Between kidneys and skin. How Czech Roma mothers cope with ethnic othering



Year of publication 2018
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Education

Description We base our contribution on the analysis of 24 biographic narratives of Czech Roma mothers in which we focused on their complex and overlapping identities interwoven in narrations of being parents, mothers, care-givers and educators of their preschool/or primary school age children. Despite our composition of Czech Roma mothers we spoke with consists of woman from low-income families as well as those who achieved higher education and have stable jobs, it is fair to note that Roma woman living in the Czech Republic often face multiple disadvantages intersecting along different axes of “otherness” – regardless of their internal self-identification. Roma mothers are often low-educated, face severe marginalisation in the job market and take the role of main care-givers in large families. Based on the analysis of in-depth biographical interviews we want to explore the self-perceptions of ethnic, cultural, gender, local as well as parental identities of them. We focus on their narrations of belonging and otherness and their interpretations of positive experiences of belonginess as well as coping strategies with negative experiences of being othered in inter-ethnic relations within formal as well as informal settings. Within the context of historical and social development of 20. century Czechia, the “othering” processes of contemporary pre-school and school children Roma mothers cannot be analytically separated from somehow contradictory dynamics. Whereas “othering” is greatly connected to external labelling, and therefore visible and audible signs of otherness (darker skin and Roma accent in spoken Czech), the inner identity processes seem to be greatly influenced by the process of “saming”. This contradiction is expressed in the bodily symbolics, whilst being denominated as Roma is often connected to being identified, “caught” by Czech society core members based on visible and audible signs (Alexander 1988, Janků 2008), the self-identification process tends to be associated with general humanity (“we all have the same kidneys”) or self-identification simply as Czech. This is the biographical context in which are the mothers looking for proper socialization strategies of cultural reproduction facing the upbringing of their children. They often experienced the assimilative upbringing style as children and now they face the challenge of cultural choices while raising their own children. It is this challenge we want to explore in order to contribute to contemporary identity politics conceptualization, as well as we are searching for the methodological innovations while researching ethnic identity in contemporary Europe on more general level.
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