Can Europe Make It?

I believe in Europe: a Roma perspective

Csaba Olah
17 January 2014

I am Csaba Olah, a first year master student in Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University in Budapest. I grew up in North-East Hungary in a musician Roma family. I spent my childhood in my hometown. Although we were never rich, I had a happy childhood which I am always happy to remember. After finishing primary school I went to high school in my hometown. Since I was much more interested in humanities than in natural sciences, I did my undergraduate studies in Cultural Anthropology at Miskolc University.

During my undergraduate studies I became very interested in class issues, identity politics and in the social, economic and political status of the Roma in contemporary society. In my thesis, which I wrote on the identity of the Roma musician, I was focusing on how ethnic boundaries are constructed by this particular community. After my graduation I worked at the Gömör Museum for more than one year. During the summer of 2011, I became part of Hungary's biggest alternative school project where I was teaching primary school children coming from underprivileged, mostly Roma families.

In the 2011/2012 and the 2012/2013 Academic Years I was a student of CEU's Roma Access Programs. In the Roma English Language Program I studied English language, then in the Roma Graduate Preparation Program the English classes and the tutoring classes in Sociology, Social Anthropology and Nationalism Studies prepared me for my MA studies. I am very grateful for this opportunity not only because I studied from excellent teachers and I got accepted to CEU's Sociology and Social Anthropology master program but also because I could enrich my knowledge on the situation of Roma in other countries, often by learning from my classmates.

In my would-be master thesis I would like to investigate how state policies on national identity have been framing the political discourse on Roma and how these policies are influencing the path of so-called Roma integration.

I consider myself a Hungarian Roma, Hungary is my homeland. I feel strongly tied to both Hungarian and Roma cultures. At the same time I belong to a diverse community living almost all over the world, but mostly in the different countries of Europe and America.

I believe in Europe. Both nation states and the European Union have a key role in the emancipation of the Roma. Europe, the home of different nations, cultures and religions, has had a long and meandering history. In the course of the centuries, the boundaries, the values and the identity of its countries have been questioned from time to time. The different cultural values and ideologies often led to wars, which often completely reshaped the political boundaries.

The European Union is a good example of how peace can be achieved and maintained if there are common goals we can agree on and if all the citizens are treated equally, considering them all belonging to the political community of the European Union. I can imagine the future of the European Union both as the union of nation states or as a federal state. The considerable difference between the two and the resistence to the idea of a federal state by many, in my opinion, is to a great extent the result of the often very different understandings of what it means to be European.

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