Mittwoch, 30. Oktober 2013, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

Wednesday Seminar - Slawomir Kapralski

The Holocaust as a Frame of Memory and the Roma/Sinti Political Movement

HS-C, Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie (NIG)
Universitätsstraße 7, 4. Stock, 1010 Wien


The Nazi persecution of Roma, although based on generally shared racist ideology, has been largely inconsistent and irregular, de-centered and de-synchronized. In result, however, ca. 500,000 Roma perished and many Roma communities have been wiped out. This contrast between the effort and the effect has influenced post-war memories of Roma and made it largely fragmented. In my presentation I will analyse the relation between the specific nature of the Nazi persecution of Roma and the Roma memories of their suffering. I will argue that those memories did not form a coherent picture of the past that would be widely shared among Roma. Therefore, the recent “memory boom” with regard to Roma genocide can be interpreted as a process of social construction of victimhood in which memory becomes a marker of identity rather than recollection of the past. With the help of Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of trauma I will argue that in the case of Roma and their memories of genocide we in fact face not a simple phenomenon of remembrance/oblivion, but a socio-cultural process of reconstructing the meaning of the past, caused, among others, by the transformation of Roma identities that followed the shifts of the Roma status in Europe after World War II. The agents of this process have been drawing on various resources, and one of the most important of them has been the discourse of the Holocaust. I would like to briefly present the efforts of Roma activist to be included in that discourse, its presence in contemporary commemorative activities of Roma, as well as its advantages and disadvantages in the context of Roma politics of identity.

Comments by Gerhard BAUMGARTNER

Slawomir Kapralski is a Senior Fellow at the Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien (VWI).

Gerhard Baumgartner is a former Senior Fellow at the VWI, Professor at the Joanneum Graz.

In Kooperation mit dem Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien (VWI).

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Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie


Marie-Therese Filip
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie
+43-1-42 77 495 02