Do / 09:00 – 16:00

Conference on Critical Engagement with the History of Sinti and Roma

Memory, Representation, and Reparations

Online (Zoom) & Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Essen (KWI), Goethestraße 31, 45128 Essen

Through a triadic exploration, the conference seeks to break down the deep-rooted barriers that have resulted in the persistent omission of the “Gypsy” experience from academia. This omission is evidence of the pervasive power of anti-Gypsyism, a transhistorical, transnational, and intergenerational phenomenon encompassing various forms of systematic and structural discrimination and racism that directly affect Sinti and Roma. Anti-Gypsyism deprives Sinti and Roma of their dignity and rights, undermines their identity and cultural practices, erases their shared past and memories, discredits their scholarship, and suppresses their demands for recognition and transitional justice. The central argument is that Sinti and Roma knowledge production, scholarship, and self-representation remain unrecognized and excluded, reflecting the broader power dynamics that shape historical narratives.

In this context, the conference will address three critical dimensions. First, research on Romani historiography acknowledges the multi-layered and overdetermined memories of the Sinti and Roma communities. Through scholarly and activist inquiry, the conference seeks to bridge temporal gaps, bring forth neglected voices, acknowledge narratives left in the dark, and amplify shared memories. This proactive engagement aims to make the past more tangible and resonant, enriching our collective understanding of history.

The second theme deals with representations. The history of the Sinti and Roma has been portrayed through the lens of the dominant society, perpetuating harmful narratives. The conference will challenge these misrepresentations and highlight the richness of Sinti and Roma cultures, contributions, and agency. We aim to pave the way for a more accurate and inclusive representation by scrutinizing how mainstream media and cultural discourses have shaped perceptions.

Finally, the concept of reparation will emerge as a critical discourse at the conference. Beyond the matter of financial compensation, the conversation will acknowledge the historical legacies of Sinti and Roma as victims, especially during the Holocaust, and the harrowing experiences of slavery forced upon them. These collective memories have been suppressed, underrepresented, and often silenced. The goal is to give voice to these narratives and reflect on the resilience and survival strategies developed in the face of adversity. The discourse of reparation encompasses broader dimensions of redress, recognition, and justice. Addressing historical injustices requires not only redressing past wrongs but also eliminating the systemic structures that continue to perpetuate discrimination against Sinti and Roma communities.

In an era when inclusivity and equity are paramount, bringing about change in Roma studies is imperative. This transformative journey involves a rigorous process of decolonization and recognition that entails reassessing “Gypsy” identity politics, the contours of memory, and the dynamics of representation. By delving into the depths of Sinti and Roma history, their past experiences, and their lived narratives, it is possible to cultivate a collective memory and raise consciousness.