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Framing ethnic disparities: an analysis of views about disparities between Roma and non-Roma people in Romania

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posted on 18.09.2018, 11:07 by Salomea Popoviciu
This thesis analysed the variety of views expressed about disparities between Romanian Roma and non-Roma by people who are actively engaged in redressing unjust social and economic differences. The focus was placed on the variability of views between and within three different contexts: academic texts proposing policy measures for addressing disparities between Roma and non-Roma people; policy documents concerning measures for Roma inclusion; and conversations by people involved in the implementation of Roma inclusion policy measures. The general concerns of this study were to identify (1) the ways in which the problem of ethnic disparity was portrayed, (2) the solutions proposed to the problem of ethnic disparity, (3) the ambivalent, dilemmatic or concealed aspects concerning the topic of disparities between Roma and non-Roma people living in Romania, (4) whether the perspectives of Roma people were accounted for in the contexts analyses and (5) the similarities and differences between the discourses of academics, policy makers, practitioners and beneficiaries of public policies concerning disparities. The theoretical foundation for this thesis was offered by the social psychological literature that links disparities between groups of people and racial or ethnic prejudice. There are four ways in which this thesis has contributed to this literature. Firstly, most of the social psychological research on ethnic disparities has been experimental, whereas in this thesis, the focus was on the often overlooked discursive practices concerning ethnic disparities. Secondly, although some of the social psychological literature, especially research on the contact hypothesis and social identity theory, has looked at the dynamic interrelationship between advantaged and disadvantaged group members, most research has focused only on the perspectives of the advantaged group members. Therefore, there remains a research gap in the literature concerning the perspectives presented in inter-ethnic interactions, and even more so, by disadvantaged group members. This thesis added to the analysis the perspectives of advantaged and disadvantaged group members, both separately and in interaction. Thirdly, whereas emergent work looks at the ambivalent views towards ethnic or racial minorities, and the possible ironic effects of prejudice reduction strategies, there is virtually no research about the possible ironic, ambivalent or dilemmatic effects of strategies which target systemic based ethnic disparities - issues explored in this thesis. Finally, most social psychological research focuses on a single context of study, most commonly the public perceptions about members of the disadvantaged groups, but also marginally mass media representations, academic publications or political discourses. This thesis places attention on an equally important area of study concerned with whether and how discourses can move between different domains, and the impact or acknowledgement of elite discourses on the everyday conversations. There are four key findings that emerged from the studies conducted for this thesis. Firstly, it was found that while expressing views about ethnic disparity, academics, policymakers, practitioners and beneficiaries of public policies for Roma people displayed subtle forms of ethnicism. Secondly, a great deal of political discourse was devoted to the encouragement of individual changes in ethnic minorities, without a similar focus on the roles of majority group members in perpetuating inequality. Whereas, the problem of Roma inclusion was acknowledged by academics, policymakers, practitioners and beneficiaries of policy measures, to be a matter for public policies, some of the attribution of responsibility for inclusion was offered to Roma people, who were encouraged to change as individuals in accord with majoritarian norms. Thirdly, the analysis showed the inclusion of the perspectives of ethnic minorities only in two of the three contexts where policy measures for Roma people were proposed and implemented: academic publications and conversations. The perspectives of feminist experts and women were only marginally present in academic publications and conversations, while missing from policy discourses. Also the perspectives of academics or the non-hegemonic voices of excluded or disadvantaged Roma people were largely absent from the arguments presented in policy documents for Roma inclusion. Lastly, this thesis found that there are ambivalence, dilemmas and concealment at work within arguments proposing policy measures for redressing ethnic disparities, with important political consequences. The findings of this thesis contribute to the important conversation about the meanings of disparity and the political solutions for achieving equality between groups of people. Also, the findings of this thesis have important implications for the social psychological theory of disparity, the policies for redressing disparity and the social work practice with disadvantaged group members.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Salomea Popoviciu

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.