2016 Menacing Victims. Racialised and Gendered Negotiations about “Begging Migrants” in Central Europe

Stefan Benedik:  Menacing Victims. Racialised and Gendered Negotiations about “Begging Migrants” in Central Europe. Phd-Thesis. Graz 2016.

In this PhD-thesis, I analyse intersecting dynamics in the production of “race” and gender in the context of post-1989 Central European migrations often labelled “Romani”. In an analysis of images in public media discourses, my goal is to challenge tendencies of Romani and Migration Studies to reify notions of deviance and the invention of romanticised and/or criminalised images of the “other”. While Romani migrations have gained notoriety in public perception recently, my thesis attempts to provide broader historical and cultural frameworks from a transnational Central European perspective. Against the backdrop of the shared assumption of a “begging problem” in many “Western” European cities, I analyse the representation of a complex form of migration (i.e. transnational and ambiguous forms of movement). My point of departure is the discussion in the self-declared “begging capital of Europe”, the Austrian city of Graz, where images such as the “workshy” Romani migrant or the “begging-boss” have been used excessively since 1989 in the Austrian and Slovak press. The historical and gendered subtext of these stereotypes has been vital for the racialisation of migrants “Romani”. Additionally I argue that the images in question transgress the political realm and are trans-medially exchanged between various media including visual and written sources, such as the press, novels, visual arts, documentary film and theatre performances. My research highlights processes that lead to the categorisation and homogenisation of groups. Consequently, I emphasise the position and agency of Romani people in regional public discourses, which in turn, allows me to deconstruct the insider/outsider categorisation. This analysis thus seeks to challenge current popular, political and academic tendencies that perceive Romani people as homogenous and a-historic. In doing so, this dissertation shall contribute to the dissection of invisibility and biologisation of “race” and gender in unified Europe.