Romani Studies

Historical variations in inter-ethnic relations: Toward a social history of Roma in Csenyéte, 1857–2000

Romani Studies (2003), 13, (1), 1–51.


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Using detailed demographic reconstruction for a single village in northern Hungary, this article seeks to trace the history, over the last two centuries, of social and economic inclusion of the Romany minority. In particular, demographic patterns (fertility, births out of wedlock and infant mortality) are examined as indices of social and economic inclusion of the Romany ethnic group. One of the major findings of this study is that there is no unilinear trend toward segregation or integration of the Roma. On the contrary, waves of integration or assimilation are followed by waves of segregation. Whether assimilation or segregation has the upper hand in any given historical epoch depends to a large extent on macro-historical processes. Ethnic relations are thus variable and contingent. While rejecting claims that the Hungarian Roma as a whole constitute an underclass, a historically nuanced amendment to Wilson’s model of underclass formation is proposed as the best explanation of changes in the social condition of the Roma since the decline of the state socialist economy.

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Author details

Ladányi, János

Szelényi, Iván