Knowledge Production: The Role of Researchers, Academics and Civil Society - International Seminar in Braga, Portugal

December 10, 2018

Knowledge Production: The Role of Researchers, Academics and Civil Society, an international seminar was held on December 6-7, 2018 at the Instituto de Educação/Institute of the Education University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.

Adrien Kovacs, CEU MA student

Igor Kostic, CEU MA student

Chair of RSP, Iulius Rostas

The Roma in Portugal and within the larger European Union faces a paradoxical situation; while the European Commission has developed, without precedent, policies, and guidelines for the Member States to improve the situation of Roma, there are incising reported racism actions targeting Roma. Some of these actions appear to be a consequence of the negative perceptions of the majority of the population about the intensifications of immigrant movements. Some of the racist actions are originating in the deeply rooted racism towards Roma, what is usually called as antigypsyism. The empowerment of the Roma minority passes through, among other dimensions, its access to higher education, understood both in terms of increasing number of Roma who enrolled into and obtains university degrees and access to academic knowledge. Accessing university education in an important way of developing the skills competence essential for the construction of tools and analysis and intervention to bring social change. Access to academic knowledge means that the Roma reshape the existing structures and actively contribute to knowledge production. The present international seminar is part of this logic of Roma empowerment by fostering a dialogue between Roma and non-Roma academics, students and other social actors and civil society organizations working to build an inter/multicultural society by offering greater opportunities to those disenfranchised and consequently, reduce social inequalities. In this sense, the proposed keynotes and panels aim to make possible a dialogue between stakeholders and by presenting and debating the work that has been carried out, what are the lessons learned and how to strengthen to future interventions. In the same time, a seminar serves as an opportunity to bring to the attention of policy-makers and other stakeholders the importance of academic knowledge production on Roma – Romani Studies, and the centrality of it to bringing social change for Roma and for the society as a whole.

The event brought together government experts and academics such as Rosa Monteiro (Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality), Maria Jose Casa-Nova (Coordinator of the Observatory for Roma Communities) and Manuel Martins (Vice-Rector for Culture and Society of the University of Minho). RSP staff and former RGPP students presently enrolled in MA programs participated and gave presentations at the venue.

On the first day, Chair of Romani Studies Program (RSP) at CEU, Professor Iulius Rostas, delivered opening remarks during the session titled as “Developing Romani Studies for the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities.” During that day, two roundtables were held, where RSP fellows, MA students and Alumni presented their papers. Maria Bogdan (RSP Research Fellow) presented her paper on “Roma’s Access to Higher Education”. Igor Kostic and Adrien Kovacs, CEU MA (former RGPP) students participated at the roundtable in the second half of the day, sharing their experiences during the panel of “Young Roma at University.”

On the second day, Andrew Ryder (Professor, Corvinus University), Erika Solyom (CEU RSP Senior Program Manager), Ismael Cortez (RSP Research Fellow) and Marton Rovid (CEU Post-Doctoral Research Fellow) delivered their presentations within the panel about “Knowledge Production on Roma.”

The keynote speakers of the closing session included Prof. Rostas and Pedro Calado, High Commissioner for Migration of Portugal.

The event was an important venue for CEU’s Romani Studies Program as RSP aims to develop research-based coursework on and for Roma advancement and inclusion together with partner universities. In this respect, RSP has the cooperation with the University of Minha as co-organizers of the Braga conference within one of the project activities of RSP’s Roma in European Societies (RES) entitled Joint Pan-European Research and Course Development. One of the main aims of RSP was to promote Roma related courses at universities in Portugal and to push policy-makers to develop scholarship programs for Roma in accessing higher education.

RSP Senior Program Manager, Erika Solyom