In recognition of International Roma Day, Weatherhead Faculty Associates Jacqueline Bhabha and Jennifer Leaning, and their colleague, Roma Program Director Margareta Matache, discuss the annual conference and their team’s research on a disenfranchised people.
In one of the popular Madeline children’s stories, the well-known redheaded French schoolgirl runs away with her friend Pepito to join a caravan of Gypsies who train them to perform in their traveling circus. At first they are thrilled not to have to go to school or brush their teeth. But when they become homesick, the Gypsy mother sews them into a lion costume, effectively kidnapping them.
Of course it ends well, with a rescued Madeline exchanging farewells with the affectionate Gypsy mother and children and returning to boarding school.
Is this a harmless children’s adventure story or does it perpetuate an enduring stereotype of criminality and indifference among a little-understood ethnic group? The educational crisis of Romani children (pejoratively referenced as “Gypsies”) is just one of many research topics spearheaded by a faculty team from the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center on Health and Human Rights at Harvard.
To what extent does poverty contribute to social exclusion? How can the exclusion of particular groups be reduced?
These were just two of the questions scholars addressed at the Social Inclusion and Poverty Eradication Workshop on November 17–18, 2016, a two-day event co-sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Center for European Studies, and the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP). The conference was convened by Weatherhead Center Director Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and professor of sociology and of African and African American studies at Harvard University; and Hilary Silver, professor of sociology and urban studies and professor of public policy at Brown University.
Racism and discrimination are daily realities for members of marginalized groups. But what does it look like at the ground level, and how do individuals from various groups and countries respond to such experiences? Drawing on more than 400 in-depth interviews with middle class and working class men and women residing in the multi-ethnic suburbs of New York, Rio, and Tel Aviv, and representing five different racial “groups,” a team of sociologists examine how people deal with and make sense of the various forms of exclusion that are ever present in their lives.
Andrea Ortiz went down to the Charles River on the afternoon that she—victoriously—submitted her senior thesis. There she was, a girl born in Mexico City, an immigrant raised in Miami, a bright light, the first in her family line to get to Harvard. Yet she felt a wave of sadness, and that, she reasoned, made no sense. So she sat by the river to think until it came to her: this was yearning.
“You never accomplish anything alone. I was feeling the absence of the people who were most influential in getting me to this point,” she said later. “I wished they could be here too.” Read more about On Love and Metamorphosis
Hanna Amanuel knows something about dignity. Even as a child in the Bronx, she saw it in places others did not—the bravery of new immigrants; the potential in low-income grade schoolers of color who, like her, were often underestimated; and in her mother, a proud woman from the Horn of Africa.
Amanuel will graduate in May. With her sharp intelligence, a Harvard degree and the future it implies might seem to have been a given; an accomplishment, yes, but not an unusual one. That is not the case. She got here because mentors of color drew her onto a path that included competitive private schools, role models, and the reassurance that she too could succeed. Read more about Coming of Age, Setting a Goal