Roma Industrie hat Konjunktur / The Roma Industry is Booming

Filiz Demirova im Gespräch/ in conversation
Der Paria

“Mit welcher Unverfrorenheit Patricia Koestring (IG- Kultur Österreich) in dem Gespräch behauptet, ich hätte das Honorar von € 100,- für angemessen befunden und sie hätte das auch schriftlich, darüber ärgere ich mich jeden Tag. Vor allem weil die geplante Diskussion mit Filz Demirova, Georgel Caldararu und mir einfach abgesagt wurde. Zudem finde ich es äußerst fraglich, wenn Frau Koestring und Frau Gerbasits (IG-Kultur) Positionen die sich kritisch mit dem Projekt Romanistan auseinandersetzen zensurieren und somit jeden Diskurs verunmöglichen.” (Marika Schmiedt)

“With what audacity Patricia Koestring (IG Culture Austria) claims that I found the honorarium of 100 euros appropriate, and that she has the same in writing. I am angry about that even now. Especially because the discussion planned with me, Filiz Demirova and Georgel Caldararu was cancelled. Further, I find it highly questionable that Frau Koestring and Frau Gerbasits (IG Culture) censor positions that engage critically with the Romanistan project, and make such a discourse impossible.”
(Marika Schmiedt)

The Roma Industry is Booming

00:38 text:
Teodora Tabacki in conversation with Filiz Demirova

Filiz Demirova is an author and activist. Co-founder of the magazine Der Paria, Member of EDEWA, Exhibition organizers (The Purchasing Cooperative of Anti-Racist Resistance) Co-initiator of the protest letter “Stop Organic Garlic Romanes”

Roma communities often do not have access to resources to apply to national or EU funds.
Consequently other organizations and representatives take up the application.

extensive fundraising opportunities Similar problems exist across Europe. No one knows how much money exactly the EU has spent over the years on “Roma Integration”.

TT: What were your experiences, the concrete moments where you felt you were disregarded, or even industrialized?

FD: Well, I was thinking about how to talk about my experiences, and I would like to start by quoting Paulo Freire: We can not enter the struggle as objects, in order to become later subjects. I am a Romni, born in Berlin. I have come to terms with my biography, and want to produce something new, without reproducing clichés.

I participate in projects and respond accordingly, that is, when I find things dubious or problematic, I address them.

I consider it my right, it is legitimate, to express criticism when I find something problematic.

But, in all honesty, I have the impression that criticism is not welcome, because many people profit through the current state of affairs, through the Roma industry.

And naturally people don’t want to simply give up their positions of power, since they profit from it.

It was very difficult for me to have my critique taken seriously, and not just dismissed.

Once, for instance, in a hierarchizing way. I was inferior, because maybe I don’t have a diploma, or a bachelor’s degree, or a PhD or whatever.

The attitude was that things have to be this way, for the reason, that you don’t have the expertise, in the way in which I, as a white German, do. So I have the power and the right to say, no, I prefer the press release to be done this way, because that is what preferred in society, and this is how it should be done.

There were other instances also, like for example, my way of publicizing the event on my blog – it’s up to me to decide how I want to present it.

I have not signed a contract, stating that I’m being paid to advertise this.

But then when I am pressured and told, you have to do it in this way, because that’s the correct way, and if you do it differently, there could be bad consequences, I feel treated like a small child that has made a mistake, and who must be taught the right way.

This paternalistic attitude is quite common in anti-racism work.

This should be thematized much more frequently, this attitude.

I am marked as a Romni – and so I must be taught. These are the norms, these are the rules of this society, and this is how things work.

But: who makes these norms? And who remains unmarked? And why is the white position, the position of power never talked about.

This is my question. Why I made the Other, without the right to carry things out as I prefer.
I have no power, and I can maybe express my criticisms, but they are immediately brushed aside.

First, in general, I would like to say, that it is the norm that mostly non-critical Roma are invited to such conferences. That is, they are marginalized and receive very little attention.

They could contribute valuable work to the Roma movement, but they are not visible, and perhaps even prefer not being in the center because

at many of these conferences discussions are superficial, and only allow for little critique, in order to maintain a certain image.

So while the EU makes these attempts for the equal treatment of Roma etc., there really isn’t an interest in changing the status quo, or in participating in a dialogue and really listening to critical opinions.

Often people with critical opinions are not invited. Concerning Romanistan, I want to thank Teodora for inviting me, here, for this interview.

For instance, Georgel and I tried having Marika Schmiedt at the conference. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for various reasons; for one, when we said we’d like to have Marika for the closing meeting,

this rather excuse-like argument came forth, that that wasn’t their responsibility. For that, we would first have to go to Austria, then get in touch with these people, and so on – these bureaucratic excuses.

07:00 – 07:05:
PK: That is the case though. Sorry about interrupting.

FD: Yes. This is however my opinion and perspective, and I am critical. I would like to finish speaking first, and then you can say something about that.

In any case I find it a bureaucratic excuse because… ideally, a wish should be taken seriously, and an actual attempt should be made to get it underway; and as supporters, at their own initiative, and as per the concept Romanistan is based on:

the encouragement of empowerment. Which implies that Roma should be able to express their wishes, should be able to say whom they would like to invite, whose work and art they would like to engage with, and hence have at the conference.

That’s why I consider it a bureaucratic excuse.

PK: It only required a phone call, or asking what the email address was.

FD: I’d like to add something to that. It’s my opinion, and Marika Schmiedt too was extremely upset about it, the fee of 100 € which I was paid, is also much too little.

That’s the question. How valued is the work of Roma artists and activists. Do they receive the same sorts of fees that white Germans receive?

And what is the interaction with the artists and activists like? Is it respectful? Is it with an attitude which suggests people working together on an equal footing? Or is it rather a hierarchical interaction?

PK: I’d like to say that Marika found the fee of 100 € for participating in the interview reasonable, and I have it in writing.

09:40 text display:
Patricia Köstring IG Culture Austria

Veronika Gerhard: In your place, I wouldn’t get stuck now on this issue. Teodora Tabacki: I don’t want to lose track of the discussion.

09:46 text:
Filiz is obviously correct. That is not true!!! I was very angry about the fee of 100 €.

PK: I don’t want to just leave things at that. She said she found the fee inadequate.

TT: To that question I have to add, that 50 artists and cultural producers participated in the project, and who earned 600 € on average.

The four people who organized the project earned a little less than 6,700 € each. In my opinion, this is a dramatic difference, and really a scandal. It’s interesting that this material discrepancy overlaps with hegemonic forms of interaction.

FD: As someone affected by Anti-Romaism, I find it very problematic that the project claims the organizers included among others Georgel Caldararu and Slavisa Markovic, when they, as I could see, were not entirely granted their rightful say in the process, and were paid less, and had to spend their entire time struggling to put together their cultural production. And I am quite happy to bring up these issues.

It’s a condition which we’ve faced for years. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about them.

I have brought up examples to illustrate these structures. That was my objective.
These examples are relevant to many projects, this is in fact how most Roma projects proceed.

It’s about the substance of these projects. What gets reproduced in these projects? What is new?
What products emerge in the process?

For example, take the exhibition at the Saalbau here in Berlin. A politician from Neukölln, who had also initiated the Organic Garlic Romanes project in Neukölln, an Anti-Roma project, was invited to speak at the opening.

And I think it’s important to address the political context – what is going on here right now, what do we want to do.

This was not considered at all by having this person, who had initiated such a violent project in the very district that we were in, open the exhibition.

Another example: When Hungary is the topic of discussion, and the circumstances there, the persecution and murder of Roma people, these pogroms that are happening, are hardly discussed, there is very little substance to the discussion for me.

I am very politically active, and the questions of how we’re working, and how we’re showing this work, are extremely important to me.

Translation by Simran Sodhi


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