UniRomnja: Romani and Sinti Feminism – History(s), Movement(s) and Theory(s).
The international lecture series “UniRomnja” is the first to focus on a topic that is hardly or very distortedly present in the scientific, political and public mainstream: feminist movements within the communities of Sinti and Romani people of Europe. Romani and Sinti people are commonly perceived and described in the dominant cultural attribution exclusively in the position of victims, questions of sexual and gender diversity as well as gender justice, violence and male supremacy are often shifted into culturalizing dimensions.
The lecture series takes a decidedly different perspective and provides insights into feminist national and transnational research, movements, and networks. The program presents a range of historical and current work on feminism and feminist research topics from Romani and Sinti perspectives. Renowned researchers from German, European and US universities will present their work. The lectures will be complemented by roundtable discussions with scholars, civil rights activists, and activists in which both historical and current issues of Romani and Sinti feminist movements will be addressed and discussed.
This Public Lecture Series brings together the knowledge, academic as well as civil society work of Romnja and Sintizze, making it accessible, visible and discussable. In order to break down as many barriers as possible, the individual events will be streamed and simultaneous English-German translation and written interpretation will be provided.
The winter semester will take place at Humboldt University (Unter den Linden 6, Berlin. Main Building, Lecture Hall 1072) from Oct. 17, 2023 – Feb. 13, 2024. The lecture series will be held in attendance every Tuesday from 16-18 pm.
Meeting ID: 68871110682
Romani feminist interventions towards epistemic and social justice.
In this lecture, Isidora Randjelović focuses on Romani feminist knowledge production and sociopolitical engagement of Romani and Sinti people in Germany. In the field of tension between historically developed racism and sexism, nation-state and social exclusions, Romani subjects develop cultural and political forms of confrontation with social relations of inequality. Based on her own experiences in self-organized associations of IniRromnja and later RomaniPhen e.V. and the social context in which they are embedded, she reflects on strategies of self-empowerment, forms of archiving and historical-political educational work as romani feminist interventions towards epistemic and social justice.
Isidora Randjelović is part of IniRromnja and co-founder of the feminist Romani archive RomaniPhen e.V. She works there on memory culture and historical-political education, among other topics. As an adjunct professor at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, she teaches on racism, social movements and critical social work. Most recently, she worked empirically with a community-based and affected-controlled approach on the nationwide study: “Unter Verdacht – Rassismuserfahrungen von Rom:nja und Sinti:zze in Deutschland” (Randjelović/ Gerstenberger/ Fernández Ortega/Svetlana Kostić/ Attia) is published by Springer VS in 2022.
Reproductive Justice from a Sinti and Romani Perspective
The lecture deals with the US-American concept of Reproductive Justice. Based on this concept, an understanding of the connections between race, class and gender in relation to reproductive justice will be established from an intersectional perspective. The lecture deals with the historical context and the emergence of the concept and clarifies to what extent it can be transferred to the German space based on diverse structures of discrimination, exclusionary practices and ongoing historical continuities of Reproductive Injustice from a Sinti and Romani perspective.
Svetlana Kostić is a Berliner, mother of six, and studied social work at the Alice Salomon Hochschule. She is part of IniRomnja, leads the Romnja Power Mainstreaming Project and is a board member of RomaniPhen e.V. She is also a consultant for anti-prejudice education and upbringing at the Fachstelle Kinderwelten. Most recently, she worked on the nationwide study “Unter Verdacht – Rassismuserfahrungen von Rom:nja und Sinti:zze in Deutschland” (Under Suspicion – Experiences of Racism by Rom:nja and Sinti:zze in Germany) by Randjelović/Gerstenberger/Fernández Ortega/ Kostić/Attia, published by Springer VS in 2022.
“The Silk Revolution”: Romani Feminism and the Roma Political and Cultural Movements
Both the women’s movement – dominated by white, non-Roma women – and the Roma political movement – largely dominated by Roma men – did not respond adequately to the needs and interests of Romani women. This led to the emergence of Romani feminism, as a platform for Romnia’s emancipation and agency Roma arts and culture played a vital role in this process, galva- nizing visibility around Romani women’s rights and becoming a tool to articulate passionately and powerfully the Romnia’s agenda. This lecture,delivered by dr. Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka, will trace the genealogy of Romani feminism at the intersection of cultural and political movements in Europe.
Dr. Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka is an anthropologist and a Roma activist, born in 1985 in Cracow, Poland. She earned her Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in 2016. She holds an MA in European Integration from UAB and an MA in Comparative Studies of Civilizations from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (UJ).
She has been an employee, member, founder, and collaborator of numerous Roma organisations in Poland and Spain. From 2008 to 2012 she was the European project coordinator at the Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia (FAGIC). From 2013 to 2015 she was an Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives Fellow, conducting a comparative study of the Roma associative movements in various countries of Latin America and Europe. From 2015 to 2017 she was the coordinator and curator of the Academic Section (aka. Roma Civil Rights Movement Section) in the RomArchive – Digital Archive of the Roma. Between 2017-2018 she was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of the Romani Studies Program at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. She serves as the deputy director of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC) since January 2018.
Romani and Sinti feminist knowledge as counter-narratives: Educational Paths of Romnja and Sintizze between Risk and Self-Empowerment.
The lecture deals with the question of knowledge production in relation to Romnja* and Sintizze*. The historically handed down and still dominant bodies of knowledge perpetuate racially structured exclusionary relations – especially in the field of education – and form a self-referential system. Female-positioned persons from the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja communities are described, among other things, as victims of their own families, without perspectives of self-determination and education. In the educational biographical self-testimonies of Romnja and Sintizze, however, quite different fields of tension are revealed. In these counter-narratives, the toxic effect of traditional dominant knowledge becomes clear, as do the consequences of transgenerational traumatization. Thus, educational worlds for the affected subjects oscillate ambivalently between participation and exclusion, self-empowerment and risk at the same time.
Pf. Dr. Jane Weiß is an education scientist, works as a consultant for community-based historical-political education at the Federal Agency for Civic Education and is also a private lecturer at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She is a member of IniRomnja and RomaniPhen e.V. In addition, she is and has been active in various (educational) political committees for the social equality of Rom*nja and Sinti*zze.Together with Elizabeta Jonuz, she published the study “(In)Visible Successes. Educational Paths of Romnja and Sintize in Germany,” Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
© Sven Bargel
Feminist Intimacies: Romnja Worldmaking and Everyday Resistance
My presentation will begin with a letter to Amelie Baumann-Blach, who was murdered in Auschwitz on June 26, 1944, and will analyze the testimony of Ella Davis, who, as a child, survived Auschwitz and eight other concentration camps and who died in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2004. Through my recollection of their lives, deaths, and the traces they have left behind, I provide a deeper understanding of Romani women’s experiences in the Holocaust and an analysis that open our understandings of Holocaust history, inter-generational transmission of knowledge, and the gendered polyvocality of memory practice. In so doing, I engage with the gendered possibilities of claiming kinship for history making, collective memory and building common futures, for us Romnja and for everyone.
Prof. Dr. Ethel Brooks is Chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Sociology at Rutgers University. Brooks is a Tate-TrAIN Transnational Fellow at the University of the Arts London, where, in 2011-2012, she was the US-UK Fulbright Distinguished Chair. Brooks was appointed under President Obama to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, where she served from 2015-2020. She is Chair of the Board of the European Roma Rights Centre and member of the Bavarlipe Academy of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, the RomaMoma Think Tank, and the US Delegation to the IHRA and its Roma Genocide Working Group. Since 2007, she is co-Director of the annual Feminist Critical Analysis course in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Brooks is the author of the award-winning Unraveling the Garment Industry: Transnational Organizing and Women’s Work. Her current book project focuses on encampment, claimstaking and Romani futures.
Representation: The Deconstructive Shift of the Romani Movements
Coming from the field of media and communication a part of my research has been focusing on the (transnational) Romani movements in the age of social media and their ways to deconstruct the position of the Romani communities in Europe from the stranger to the recognized equal citizen. The cultural field has become the most important field of the movement: researching the European Roma history has become one of the main focuses, through some major organizing theories and unifying concepts such as resistance, belonging, and resilience. In my presentation, with the help of some artwork made by Romani artists, I will focus on the concept of belonging and attempt to describe what the struggle for the freedom of identity means for the Roma communities in the everyday life of Europe.
Dr. Maria Bogdan is a media theorist and a social scientist. Her main research interest is related to media representation of Roma, racism, cultural memory, and cultural trauma. She received her Ph.D. from the Film, Media, and Culture Theory Doctoral Program of the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (2018). She was the first Romani Rose Postdoctoral Researcher fellow at the Antigypsyism Research Center of Heidelberg University (2019-2020). From the fall of 2023, she is a Fortunoff Fellow of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies where she is conducting research on testimonies in the Fortunoff Video Archive (FVA) related to the Sinti and Roma experience. She is a founding member and managing editor of the Critical Romani Studies journal. She is a Fulbright Alumna and has done part of her Ph.D. research at Columbia University. She is the Chair of the Barvalipe Academy at the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture.
A Place for Roma Feminism
The lecture will address the rise of visibility of Roma feminism in different contexts and movements when producing knowledge in research, activism, art and culture. Intersectionality, thus desirable in social movements is still a theory and not a way of acting. I will analyse different models of Roma women’s strategies to understand where is their place or a new feminism is emerging.
Dr. Carmen Gheorghe is a Roma feminist, activist and scholar from Romania. She has been engaged in civil society for the last 21 years and her main work was focused on Roma women and girls rights through grassroots work, community development, gender issues, intersectionality, politics of identity and reproductive justice. She is the co-founder of E-Romnja Association, a Roma feminist NGO in Romania. Since 2018 she developed an academic course on Roma feminism and politics of identity.
Anti-Roma Racism: History, Pillars, Legacies, Present-Day Manifestations. An Intersectional Approach
Margareta (Magda) Matache
Across time and political regimes, European sovereigns, States, and other powerholders have habitually pushed Roma people into and as an absolute periphery, trapping our communities between the politics of ‘must die’ and ‘let die.’ Moreover, during war and peace, the bodies of Roma women and girls have become the targets of specific forms of structural, symbolic, and interpersonal violence. In EU countries with large Roma populations, Roma women live 11 years less than their non-Roma counterparts (FRA, 2021). Largely, structuralracism continues to harm Roma people’s health and well-being severely.
In this lecture, I will examine several manifestations of anti-Roma racism that seem unrelated, disparate, sporadic, isolated, or even chaotic yet form the parts of a steady structure of oppression. I will also explore the bond between structural racism and other systems of oppression and engage with the global scholarly literature on racism, racialization, and reparations through a Roma lens, suggesting possible ways towards reparations, anti-racism, and solidarity.
Dr. Margareta (Magda) Matache is a Lecturer on Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the co-founder and Director of the Roma Program at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University. She is also a member of the O’Neill-Lancet Commission on Racism, Structural Discrimination and Global Health.Dr. Matache’s research and teaching focus on the manifestations and impacts of racism and other systems of oppression in different geographical and political contexts. Her research examines discrimination, reparations, social determinants of health—including education and social and economic disparities—and their nexus with the historical past and contemporary public policies, with a particular focus on anti-Roma racism.
Romani Feminist Frontlines: Amplifying Voices, Shaping Futures
This study delves into the realm of Romani feminist activism, shedding light on the robust influence of Romani women across diverse locations. By providing a platform for Romani feminists to express themselves, this research seeks to counter balance the prevalent non-Roma perspective. Furthermore, itscrutinizes how the insights shared by these Romani feminists can exert meaningful influence on European and national policies, aiming to foster improved conditions for Romani women. Through this comprehensive analysis, the study advocates for the proactive integration of Romani feminist voices to stimulate a more equitable and just societal trajectory.
Alba Hernández, a Romnja feminist activist from Spain, holds a background in social work and has dedicated years to working closely with marginalized communities, particularly Roma. She embarked on her academic journey with an MA in Gender Studies and Law, cultivating a profound understanding of women’s rights through a juridical and intersectional lens. Alba’s pursuit of knowledge led to a second MA, specializing in Critical Gender Studies with a focus on Critical Romani Studies at Central European University. Her academic endeavors mirror her commitment to amplifying marginalized voices and driving positive change, highlighted by her MA Thesis: “A Comparative Analysis: Exploring Parallels and Intersections between Romani Feminist Knowledge Production and Roma National Frameworks (2005-2018) with a Focus on Gender Equality and Discrimination Affecting Romani Women.” Alongside her studies, Alba co-founded the Feminist Collective of Romani Gender Experts on an international level, showcasing her dedication to Roma women’s rights.
The Plight of Roma and Sinti Women: Sexual Violence during World War II in Occupied Poland
Dr. Matkowska’s upcoming lecture will bring attention to the often overlooked subject of sexual violence against Sinti and Roma women in occupied Poland during World War II. Dr. Matkowska will shed light on the harmful and traumatic experiences of sexual abuse and violence endured by Romani women. Dr. Matkowska will also address the challenges faced by Romani women, stemming from both persecution and the historical exoticization and sexualization of their identity in European society since the 18th century. Her study delves into the agency and victimization of Romani women at the hands of oppressors during World War II.
Dr. Justyna Matkowska is a Roma scholar, educator, and activist from Poland. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wroclaw and holds an MA in Literary Studies from the same university. Dr. Matkowska also completed the Postgraduate Romani Studies Program at the Pedagogical University of Krakow in Poland and holds an MBA degree from the Collegium Humanum – Warsaw Management University. Dr. Matkowska’s research focuses on the Holocaust of Roma and Sinti, Roma feminism, as well as anthropology, race and ethnicity, cultural memory, and the representation of Romani people.
Throughout her professional career, Dr. Matkowska has made significant contributions to academia and government, advocating for Roma rights, minority rights, equal education, and combating antigypsyism and discrimination. With her extensive expertise and deep understanding of these issues, she remains steadfast in her commitment to shedding light on these critical issues and leading positive social change.
Revisiting Re-envisioning Social Justice Twenty Years Later: Do We Finally See and Hear Romani Women?
It has been twenty years since Re-envisioning Social Justice from the Ground-Up: Including the Experiences of Romani Women was published. In that paper,I looked at the situation of Romani women using the Critical Race Theory tools bestowed upon me by my mentor, Kimberle Crenshaw. In this lecture, I will dust off my toolbox once more in order to examine how the article has influenced discourses, how intersectionality has otherwise shaped Romani discourses in Europe, and ultimately begin to answer the question of whether we see and hear Romani women.
Alexandra Oprea is a Romanian Romani attorney, author, and activist. Over fifteen years ago, under the tutelage of Kimberlé Crenshaw at both Columbia University and UCLA School of Law, Alexandra pioneered the application of intersectionality theory to Romani women and through a series of articles articulated the gendered dimensions of Romani civil and human rights struggles. Oprea was instrumental in creating some of the “historic firsts” for Romani women’s representation in the global arena, most notably through her written and oral advocacy at the 49th Session (2005) of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where she called for an intersectional approach to collecting race and gender statistics in order to gain insight into the barriers facing Romani and other minority women. Her advocacy and articles are credited as helping to pave the way for the European Parliament’s historic first report on the “Situation of Roma Women in the European Union.”
Oprea received a B.A. from Vassar College, an M.A. from Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, and a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she studied Critical Race Theory, was a Senior Editor on the UCLA Law Review (Volume 57), and founded the Womxn of Color Collective (2008), which remains a thriving campus organization today.
The Roma Woman: From Stigmatization to Affirmation. Stories about the Struggle to Exist throughout History
What and how much do we know about Roma women and Roma in general and what are our sources of information when it comes to Roma? What kind of representations of the Roma woman do we find in the public space?
This research aims to investigate how this contradictory image of the Roma woman was built and if these images reflect the identity of the Roma woman, or rather a false image based on a perception that has been generated, mostly, by people who are not part of the Roma community. Moreover, It discusses the impact of these representations on the identity of Roma women and how they affect their relationships with others and society’s perception of them.
At the same time, It presents other perspectives of Roma women that do not fit into the figure as she is perceived in the collective mind, contributing to the building of a balanced image that actual Roma women identify with and which resonates with them.
Luiza Medeleanu follows an European PhD in Cultural Studies at Center of Excellence in Image Study (CESI), University of Bucharest in collaboration with Central European University Budapest (CEU) and L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris. Her doctoral thesis treats the image of Roma in mainstream series related with the ethics of fictionality and cultural identity. Currently she is Assistant Professor Associate at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Bucharest, the Romani department, where she teaches Romani Culture and Literature.
Romnja Feminism: Politicization of the biography as an empowerment strategy and critique of racism
Especially Romani and Sinti feminists, such as Prof. Ceija Stojka (1933-2013), Melanie Spitta (1946-2005), Hildegard Lagrenne (1921- 2007) or Philomena Franz (1922-2022), to name only a few of the survivors of the state-organized genocide, reveal a politicization of their biographies. They wrote books, made documentaries, and gave speeches and lectures on racism against Romani and Sinti people. The successor generations of Romani and Sinti feminist , such as Anita Awosusi (1956), Fatima Hartmann Michollek (1959), and Petra Rosenberg (1952), among others, founded self-organizations to denounce social grievances, such as unequal access to resources, denial of social and political power and participation, and everyday and structural racisms. Politicization of biography as an empowerment strategy and critique of racism is being pursued today by young Romani and Sinti feminist. The central demands and contents of the work are the fight against racism, sexism and discrimination against Sinti and Romani people and the assertion of women and participation rights. But to be asked is, among other things: What dominant-society racisms do Romani and Sinti feminist encounter today? What is the dominant social price that Romani and Sinti feminist are being asked to pay? And, how can Romnja feminism be lived and practiced with its own grammar?
Prof. Dr. Elizabeta Jonuz is an educator, graduate social pedagogue and professor for migration and international affairs at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hannover. Among other things, she was involved in the organization of the congress “Upre Romnja” in Cologne (international congress of Romnja and Sintizze, 1996) and co-editor of “Jekh Chib”, materials on the situation of Roma in the FRG: Roma women on the move. In 2020, together with Jane Weiß, she published the study “(In)Visible Successes. Educational Paths of Romnja and Sintize in Germany,” Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Roma Feminism and Decolonial Thought: An Intersectional Exploration
This lecture delves into the intersection of Romnja Feminism and decolonial thought, two critical frameworks that have emerged to challenge dominant power structures and advocate for social justice.
Romani and Sinti Feminism, rooted in their situated experiences across Europe, emphasizes the need to address both gender and race discrimination within the society at large. Decolonial thought, on the other hand, confronts the enduring effects of colonialism, seeking to deconstruct colonial narratives, restore marginalized voices, and reimagine more equitable futures. This lecture examines how these two frameworks intersect and mutually inform one another, leading to a deeper understanding of the complexities of oppression, identity, and resistance. By exploring the ways in which Romnja feminists engage with decolonial thought, we gain insights into their strategies for challenging not only patriarchy but also the Eurocentric narratives that perpetuate their marginalization. This analysis contributes to ongoing dialogues about intersectionality, liberation, and the dismantling of oppressive systems, highlighting the transformative potential of combining Romani and Sinti feminism and decolonial thought in the pursuit of a more just and inclusive world.
Sebijan Fejzula serves as a researcher at the Centre for Social Studies and concurrently pursues a Ph.D. in Human Rights in Contemporary Society at the University of Coimbra. She assumes the role of co-editor for the book titled “State Racism: A Collective View from the Perspective of Autonomy and Racial Justice” (2023) and boasts authorship of several articles, including: “De-Whitening of Romani Women’s Intersectional Experience” (forthcoming); “Anti-Roma Racism, Social Work, and the White Civilisatory Mission” (2022); among others. Furthermore, Sebijan stands as a co-founding member of Kale Amenge (Roma for Ourselves), an independent anti-racist Roma political organization dedicated to advancing the collective emancipation of the Roma people and the establishment of Roma political autonomy.
Panel: Romani and Sinti feminist positions of the civil and human rights movements: History, Knowledge and Visions
Fatima Hartmann, Anita Awosusi, Petra Rosenberg,Rosa Gitta Martl und Nicole Sevik. Moderation: Tayo Awosusi-Onutor
In this panel, influential personalities of the Romani and Sinti civil and human rights movements share their knowledge and analyses with the audience and engage in conversation. How did the political self-assertion of Sinti and Romani people in Germany emerge and develop? How was resistance organized against the continuing social exclusion and the denial of the Nazi genocide after 1945? What role(s) did women and feminist perspectives play in the movements? How do they look at generational relations and what visions do they have for a more just future?
Anita Awosusi was born in 1956. Her parents are survivors of the Porajmos (Holocaust). Since the mid-1980s she has been campaigning for the rights of the Sinti and Romani people. Since the 1990s, she has published as an author, among other things, on the culture of remembrance of the Porajmos. She was head of the Dialogue Department and a board member of the Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma.
Petra Rosenberg is chairwoman of the Landesverband Deutscher Sinti und Roma Berlin-Brandenburg e.V. She holds a degree in education and regularly gives lectures and readings on the history and persecution of the Sinti and Romani people.
Fatima Hartmann was formerly editor of the Romani magazine Jek Chib. In the 1990s, she became involved in Rom e.V. She was part of the protest movements for residence rights for Romani people and co-organized a large Roma women’s conference.
Rosa Gitta Marti was born in Linz in 1946; her parents survived the Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück concentration camps. She is an author and founder of the association “Ketani”. Her daughter Nicole Sevik led the association and accompanies the Mauthausen Memorial as a guide. Currently she is the leader of a reading project.
Tayo Awosusi-Onutor is a board member of RomaniPhen e.V. and a member of IniRromnja. She deals with the topics of education, history and the civil rights movement.
Panel: Sinti and Romani feminist positions of the present: knowledge, struggles and visions.
Hajdi Barz, Svetlana Kostić, Amdrita Jakupi, Sandra Selimović und Moderation: Roxanna Witt
This panel addresses the current issues of Romani and Sinti queer_feminist positions. Personalities active in this field for many years are invited to share their knowledge and analyses and to enter into conversation with each other. What political-activist movements exist in this field? Which topics and forms of intervention are present? What resistances do they face? What connects them to the history of the Sinti and Romani civil and human rights movements? What are their wishes and visions for a more just future?
Amdrita Jakupi is a systemic trauma therapist and psychological counselor. She works with refugee and traumatized women. Amdrita co-founded the non-profit association save space e.V. in Cologne. A platform focusing on intersectionality, inclusion, empowerment, trauma-informed education and healing work.
Hajdi Barz is a longtime member of IniRromnja and RomaniPhen e.V. She is engaged in research on racism against Sinti and Romani people, feminist empowerment, self-organization and racism-critical didactics and standards.
Roxanna-Lorraine Witt is chairwoman and co-founder of save space e.V. Among other things, she organizes the cultural festival of the Sinti and Romani people Djelem Djelem Festival in Dortmund. Her work focuses on culture, language, digitalization, racism prevention and mental health, among other topics.
Sandra Selimović is an actress, director, rapper and activist.In her productions and activism she deals with racism, sexism, identity, feminism and exclusion and breaks the stereotypical image and clichés of Romani people.
Svetlana Kostić studied social work and is part of IniRomnja and on the board of RomaniPhen e.V.. She is also the project leader of the Romnja Power (Main-)streaming project.