2018 Shifting the agency of remembering: Inventing the loyal Romani victim in the context of Austrian memory debates

Stefan Benedik

Shifting the agency of remembering: Inventing the loyal Romani victim in the context of Austrian memory debates

in: Ethnicities, first published: October 31st, 2018

https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796818807327


Abstract
Many paradoxes characterise the case of Romani communities, who have been dubbed one of Europe’s most eminent ‘problems’. On the one hand, European states are increasingly acknowledging Romani people as a victim group of National Socialism and the Second World War while, on the other hand, politics and public debate continue to discriminate against contemporary Romani communities. As part of identity politics, Romani organisations have been highlighting their history of persecution, a process initiated at the time when the memory of National Socialism has become established as the core of European collective memory. This paper examines how narratives of a violent past have been integrated into Austrian ‘national memory’ and how this intersects with the construction of Romani victimhood history – often as a consequence of Romani organisation’s own efforts of telling their community’s history. I argue that the mainstreaming of Romani suffering is first due to a successful integration of Romani victims into the framework of a new understanding of ‘racially’ diverse Austrian victimhood. Second, I trace the role of individual protagonists within these processes of acknowledgment and highlight the relevance of gendered positions in developing a new racialised history of persecution.