An identification with a particular territory seems
to be a natural part of human social organization. Thus, it is not surprising
that national consciousness has occurred most frequently in people inhabiting
a common piece of territory, sometimes overcoming cultural and even linguistic
differences. Developing this consciousness is more difficult in diaspora
populations which have no common land from which to raise their struggle
or no vision of a homeland to use as a rallying symbol. The interesting
question that arises, then, is how certain diaspora populations have formed
a sense of national consciousness without either a real or imagined homeland.
This paper considers the existing paradigm of the nation, as presented
by Smith, which only differentiates the state from the nation in that states
hold sovereign power while contingent upon territory as the basis for nationhood.
The paper suggests an alternative paradigm for understanding nationhood
in an era in which non-state actors who are not necessarily linked to territory
are growing in importance. Through this new paradigm, one can conceive
of the nation in a manner that corresponds with existing mechanisms and
structures of the international system, such as the human rights regime.
This shift requires a reconsideration of the nation's purpose. This purpose
no longer need be survival through sovereign territory, but instead can
be survival through integration (not assimilation) into existing international
The paper then examines how national consciousness is formed in the
absence of a common territory or homeland by considering the case of the
Roma, a widely dispersed group with no vision of a historic homeland (northern
India is considered the land of their origin, but the Roma do not consider
it a homeland). Roma are stereotypically known as nomadic by choice; however,
discrimination often has forced them to keep migrating. Many Roma have
settled in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, with the largest group residing
in Romania, but they are also scattered throughout many countries of Western
Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and America.
Romani national identity is a relatively new phenomenon.2This
paper considers the formation of Romani identity examining the specific
mechanisms and processes, such as interaction between Romani and international
organizations, that have been successful in creating and consolidating
national identity. The paper also considers the factors which have impeded
the formation of a common identity, such as geographic and linguistic diversity,
and the problems of consolidating and maintaining a national identity in
a diaspora situation. The central question in the case of the Roma is how
far the "imagined community" (Anderson 1983) can be stretched and how the
successful mechanisms of creating national consciousness have contributed
to the ability to imagine the national community.
In order to outline the inherent difficulty of forming a national consciousness
in the absence of a homeland, the second section briefly considers literature
on political geography that describes how territories shape political spaces.
Relating the importance of territory to nation-building, this section also
considers the question of what a nation is and what role territory plays
in forming a national identity, primarily using the works of Smith and
Armstrong. The paper then offers a different perspective on the formation
of a nation explaining how a new definition of the nation is more appropriate
given the current international system. The case of the Roma serves as
a basis to re-evaluate the concept of the nation and the historical background
of their national development is a basis to analyze how the Roma illustrate
this new paradigm. The final section considers how a national identity
can be maintained if a nation does not inhabit a common territory by exploring
the specific mechanisms Romani national organizers have used, and how other
groups can use these mechanisms successfully.
The Relationship Between Territory and Nation
Contemporary scholars' definitions of the nation
are based on the assumption that a nation must inhabit a common territory
with the understanding that territory helps shape political spaces. However,
in describing the importance of political space for the purpose of the
nation, many scholars ascribe characteristics to the nation that more accurately
belong to the state (Smith 1981; Gellner 1983, 3038; Kedourie 1960,
7). In determining the differences between national and state characteristics,
one must first consider the role of territory in developing a national
consciousness and whether the characteristics that follow from territorial
consolidation of political consciousness and power are necessary for the
The field of political geography contributes to an understanding of
how territory shapes political space and how people develop an identification
with a territory. As Agnew claims,
. . . place is more than an 'object' . . . Concrete, everyday practices
give rise to a 'structure of feeling,' . . . or 'felt sense of the quality
of life at a particular place and time' . . . This sense of place reinforces
the social-spatial definition of place from inside, so to speak. The identification
with place that can follow contributes yet another aspect to the meaning
of place: one place or 'territory' in its differentiation from other places
can become an 'object' of identity for a "subject" (Agnew 1987, 278).
Rather than power emerging solely from social relations, which can
change, power is identified with place and thus becomes institutionalized
more easily. Johnston, Knight, and Kofman argue that territory reifies
power and that "territory can be used ideologically, to promote certain
interests which require social control by associating them with a place
within which that control is exercised (and recognized under the doctrine
of sovereignty), thereby legitimating the control by obscuring its real
nature" (Johnston, Knight, and Kofman 1988, 5). Noting the effect of territory
on power when considering the processes of nation- and state-building is
insightful. By reifying power, a territory can transform a land of various
peoples into a land of one people, an ethnic group,3so
Smith views territory as all-important to the existence of an ethnic
community or ethnie and the subsequent development of the nation. The ethnie,
which, according to Smith, is a group with a collective name, a common
myth of descent, a shared history, a distinctive shared culture, an association
with a specific piece of territory, and a sense of solidarity (Smith 1987,
2230), requires territory for its continued existence because the
symbolism associated with territory creates ethnic and, subsequently, national
ties. The sense of nationhood thus cannot exist in a non-territorially
consolidated group. However, in the case of the ethnie, the possession
of the homeland is not as important as the symbolism it provides as the
"symbolic geographic centre" of the group existence (Smith 1987, 28). This
symbol of a homeland is an essential factor in group consciousness.
Armstrong articulates a different view on the role of territory in forming
an ethnic community. He claims that the "primary characteristic of ethnic
boundaries is attitudinal. In their origins and in their most fundamental
effects, ethnic boundary mechanisms exist in the minds of their subjects
rather than as lines on a map or norms in a rule book" (Armstrong 1982,
78). He adopts the ideas of the Norwegian anthropologist Barth who
writes that ethnic identity is developed by social boundaries as opposed
to territorial ones. Ethnic identity has an unfixed character which changes
through social interaction. Nevertheless, perceptions of difference exist
between group members and non-members. The processes of inclusion and exclusion
among ethnic groups exhibit such boundaries, which can partly be defined
by language. This theory holds that the members, as well as the culture,
of the ethnic group can change and the sense of belonging to the group
is defined by sociological factors such as myth, symbol, and communication,
as well as attitudinal factors (Armstrong 1982, 79). The ethnic group,
therefore, need not be defined by the territory it inhabits.
Scholars, however, generally conceive of nations as inextricable from
territory primarily because nationhood implies political consciousness
and activity, which in the modern era have always been linked to a particular
space. Smith and other scholars such as Gellner, Anderson, and Kedourie
all either argue or imply that a national identity must be formed in relation
to a specific territory. As Smith theorizes, the historic community upon
which the nation is based must always be associated with a distinct homeland
since territory is the "material for a political construct . . . one that
can preferably furnish the basis for a successful 'nation-state' " (Smith
1981, 187203). Yet this view of political constructs is too limiting
and does not consider new constructs which do not require an exclusive
Smith defines a nation as a "named human population sharing a historic
territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture,
a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members" (Smith
1991, 40). However, some of these other characteristics of a nation are
more accurately classified as characteristics of a state. A mass, public
culture usually has been the creation of a state through processes of industrialization
and state education. Common legal rights and duties are also defined by
an autonomous political structure such as the state. A nation may have
a common economy if the entire nation exists within one state; however,
if a nation is divided among several states, a common national economy
is by no means a given.
One must consider what the goal of nationhood is
today in order to determine whether all of Smith's characteristics of a
nation are necessary to label a group a nation. Smith contends that "nationalism
always involves a struggle for land, or an assertion about rights to land"
(Smith 1981, 187). Yet more specifically, he means that this struggle for
land is about the right to form a nation-state on that land. He differentiates
between two aims of nationalism: one which links culture and politics,
and thus claims that only distinctive cultural groupings can be the foundation
of a state; and the other which links culture and geography or geopolitics,
and claims that nations and territories belong together with every nation
having its "rightful place on earth, which belongs to it and it alone"
(Smith 1981, 191). Both types of nationalism aspire to statehood. The only
difference is whether any territory could be the basis of a nation, or
whether a specific territory must provide that basis.
If an ethnic identity or community can form without territorial attachment
which the Roma clearly exhibit following the same logic, a nation can form
without a common territory as well, at least in this era of increasing
international interdependence. Thus, Smith's definition of the nation based
on territory is inadequate. An ethnic community already has two of the
characteristics of a nation: common myths and historical memories. According
to Smith's definition, the nation is only one step away from being a state.
His definition implies that a nation already has most of the requisites
of self-determination and the next logical step is to gain international
recognition. Yet this definition prevents many groups such as the Roma
from legitimately claiming rights to the protection of their culture and
gaining recognition of their common goals. Other definitions of the nation
may not be as specific as Smith's, but nationhood, in the commonly accepted
sense of the term, is usually synonymous with a common territory. This
conception again is inadequate because it favors groups which have a territory
often by the arbitrary good fortune of history over those which are dispersed
among many states and sovereign territories controlled by others. Thus,
the definition of a nation should include diaspora groups which do not
have a homeland.
A New Definition of the Nation
A more useful definition of a nation for the purposes
of the contemporary international system is a politicized ethnic group
acting with or without attachment to a territory. This definition more
adequately captures the goals of a nation without undermining the territorial
integrity of existing structures. The territorial and sovereign state is
not the only level on which politics can be practiced. Today political
organization takes place more and more frequently on the international
or suprastate level. Avenues of political mobilization are provided by
the United Nations (UN) as well as the European Union (EU), the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), various human rights groups,
and other inter-national organizations. In addition, unrepresented nations
and peoples now have an official forum in which to express their concerns
the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples' Organization (UNPO) at The Hague
as well as their own national, non-state organizations such as the International
Romani Union (IRU). By defining the nation through its involvement with
these organizations and structures, one can more clearly understand the
nature of political activity in an increasingly integrated system.
The acceptance of a group as a nation is contingent today upon in-formal
UN and state recognition. In the UN, nations can be legitimized through
organs such as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), where organizations
representing nations hold consultative or observer status. States can informally
recognize the existence of a nation by sanctioning the right of groups
to agitate for their human rights. While human rights, by definition, pertain
to individuals and not to groups, states do acknowledge that certain groups
are targeted and collectively experience violations of their human rights.
Recognizing the violations that pertain to a group and condemning these
violations legitimizes the right of this group to act collectively for
its protection (e.g., to act as a nation). Before the emergence of the
current international climate, a nation could exist, but if it were not
legitimized by even informal state recognition, it would have no recourse
in protecting itself short of forming an army and fighting for statehood.
Today, however, the recognition of a nation by the UN or by a number of
strong states through publicly acknowledging its existence and the violations
of its members' rights automatically legitimizes that nation and gives
it the ability to seek recourse when members of the nation are threatened
by the state(s) in which they live.
With this in mind, one can credibly ask whether statehood is necessarily
the goal of a nation. With several different structures and arenas in which
political mobilization can occur, the political purpose of the nation can
be achieved without statehood. The primary goal of the nation is the protection
of its people. One way a nation can achieve this is through the international
arena involving a suprastate (or non-state) organization of the national
group. This group, through the support of the UN as well as various human
rights groups, can act as a watchdog for the protection of its people dispersed
among various states. In a changing international system, where non-state
actors are gaining a larger role and the notion of group rights is gaining
legitimacy (Hannum 1993; Barsh 1994; Grossman 1993), this national organization
could work supranationally for the protection of cultural, linguistic,
and educational rights of its nation within all the various states its
A nation can also be organized within a pre-existing state, becoming
involved in the state structures to ensure the cultural preservation of
the nation. Such activities are possibly as effective in preserving the
nation as attempts to create a national state, if not more so, considering
the threat to the nation that arises from fighting for sovereignty. Due
to the growing degree of international recourse available to nations protecting
the rights of their people, territorial sovereignty (an impossible idea
if applied universally to nations4) ceases
to be as important in this day and age. Survival is often less a matter
of withstanding military campaigns than resisting attempts at assimilation.
The existence of a security threat is the most compelling reason for desiring
territorial sovereignty, but nations can resist assimilation as well as
certain military threats in ways other than creating a sovereign national
state, namely by involvement in existing state structures as well as international
organizations that can protect cultural rights.
Since the universal principle of a state for every nation is an impossibility
and alternative methods exist for the protection of the nation, a new paradigm
of the nation is necessary. This thesis requires a conscious shift in the
purpose of a nation from survival through sovereign power to survival through
integrative processes. Clearly if a nation does not possess a sovereign
territory, there are limits to the political rights it can have. Such a
nation has to accept that it will need to cooperate with other nations
in a common political structure. This need not mean the neglect of national
rights, however. The shift in the purpose of the nation would be from a
more politicized existence which aims to exercise control over every aspect
of that nation to the goal of cultural and social preservation. This would
include the ability to exercise political authority over the group only
to the degree necessary to defend group cultural and social interests.
In addition to fighting for sovereignty out of
national hubris, many of the recent nationalist uprisings have occurred
in response to the fear of genocide,5or,
more benignly, in response to conditions which do not allow the group to
fulfill its moral purpose.6Yet
if mechanisms in international politics exist that allow external intervention
when a nation faces genocide or simply cannot fulfill its moral purpose,
then territorial conflict can be mitigated. This obviously would not be
a perfect process and may not work well when strong national attachments
exist to particular land (such as the Serbian romantic attachment to Kosovo,
although 90 percent of its inhabitants are Albanians and the Serbs have
not constituted a majority in this region since the end of the Ottoman
Empire). Even defining a nation's rights as acceptable if they do not infringe
upon the rights of other nations leaves many questions unanswered. The
international community would clearly have to deal with such issues on
an ad hoc basis, although it can accept certain rights such as the practice
of one's culture, the use of one's national language, and no discrimination
due to one's national background as universal principles.
The international community must accept the reality that nations and
states are not and will never be congruent. Current theory on nationalism
has not been significantly altered by the realization of this fact. The
belief that the ideal goal of every nation is the creation of a nation-state
is still prevalent. A new paradigm which recognizes that national interests
can be protected outside of a sovereign national state would help delegitimize
conflict that violates the territorial integrity of a state. This new paradigm
would recognize that states and nations do not ideally have to be congruent
and should not be so without a compelling reason (such as the complete
incorrigibility of a state in respecting the rights of a nation). However,
the increasing number of nations that have gained recognition attempting
secession effectively undermines a more pragmatic non-territorial concept
of the nation. The international community has largely accepted the right
of nations within the former communist bloc to break away from existing
state structure and form supposedly homogeneous nation-states.
It appears that the rise in nationalist claims
for statehood in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has spurred
nations in other parts of the world to make similar attempts, or at times
has led the international community to accept the right of nations elsewhere
to make these claims. This policy, if adopted by the international community,
will inevitably lead to a dual standard. Clearly, the number of claims
to self-determination in the form of full sovereignty and independence
must be limited at some point. But what will be the criteria to determine
the right of some nations to statehood or secession and the limiting of
the rights of other nations? In determining these criteria, the concept
of nationhood becomes politicized not only within the nation, but within
the interstate community. Although this may be acceptable from a realistic
perspective, supporting some nations for economic or political purposes
and rejecting others for the same reasons is less than ideal. The purpose
of an international regime is to regulate relations among states and provide
certain norms according to which these relations are conducted. The world
is becoming too interdependent for this former perspective to hold merit
any longer. States are no longer completely sovereign as solitary political
units because the growing interaction between states and non-state actors
requires greater cooperation and compromise in order to address problems.
Such interdependence necessitates a set of international rules that governs
relations among all actors and that establishes a standard of human and
civil rights to which states must adhere.
Acceptance of the territorial integrity of states in conjunction with
their declining sovereignty requires a new paradigm for understanding the
nation. In the current international system, it is no longer necessarily
a goal of the nation to strive for a state. The goals of nationhood can
be limited to the preservation of the nation culturally, economically,
and politically within existing states. The example of the Roma is useful
in developing this new paradigm. The Roma consider themselves a nation
and they should be accepted as such according to the definition of a nation
as a politicized cultural group which seeks the preservation of the group
within the existing interstate structure. The goals of the nation may be
fulfilled by the organization of the nation on a suprastate level. The
Roma's sovereignty does not need to be absolute since, as a non-state actor,
the Romani nation has become increasingly legitimized. As a non-state actor
within the international regime, the Romani nation, according to this new
paradigm, can strive for self-preservation without requiring absolute self-determination.
The Origins of and Current Developments in Romani Nationalism
Romani identity is not a recent construction. The
Roma have had a sense of difference ever since the time of their earliest
migrations into Europe, which they reached by a.d. 1250. This sense of
difference is due to non-Western cultural characteristics, but is also
reinforced by the discrimination they have faced since their arrival in
Europe. In addition to the extensive discrimination the Roma faced in the
past and continue to face today,7the
Roma living in Romania were held in slavery for 500 years from the fourteenth
to the nineteenth century. They obtained freedom only in the early to mid-nineteenth
century, a little known fact in the history of Europe (Hancock 1987, 1136).
Some of the discrimination the Roma face today occurs in the form of laws
in the United States and Europe against the settlement of migratory groups
on any piece of land without a special permit. In the United Kingdom, Roma
sometimes cannot even camp on pieces of land that they own (Coverley 1995,
Part of the Romani reaction to discrimination was the maintenance of
their separateness from the societies in which they lived. There was, and
still is, a clear distinction between Roma and non-Roma (gadjé)
and, because their differences are not respected, many Roma have little
interaction with the gadjé (Hancock 1991, 136). They fear that if
outsiders learn too much about them, they will face even more discrimination
and hatred (Hancock 1991, 1367). For these various reasons, Roma have
a strong sense of difference vis-à-vis the populations of the countries
in which they live. This separateness is reinforced by cultural traditions
such as that of ritual purity (Hancock 1987, 115) which are difficult to
reconcile with Western cultural characteristics. Another factor that has
reinforced divisions between the Roma and gadjé has been the mistrust
that former feel toward the latter. Thus, Romani identity has formed both
from external factors, discrimination against them, and internal factors,
their cultural traditions (Hancock 1987, 115). Gonzales claims that "conflict
of one sort or another seems often to be a trigger in ethnogenesis or ethnoregenesis"
(Gonzales 1989, 6). Smith and Mann also both recognize the role of conflict
or adversity in crystallizing an ethnic or even national identification.
For Mann, this occurs through warfare; however, the discrimination that
Roma have faced can almost be compared to warfare because it has involved
random as well as organized violent attacks against their people.
Thus, the Roma have at least a vague sense of group identity, although
they are, in fact, a very diverse group. Barany asks "is there a distinctive
Romani identity and, if so, what determines it?" (Barany 1994, 321344).
Acton asserts that the Roma are a "most disunited and ill-defined people,
possessing a continuity, rather than a community, of culture. Individuals
sharing the ancestry and reputation of 'the Gypsy' may have almost nothing
in common in their way of life and visible or linguistic culture" (Acton
1974, 54). Yet both suprastate and state Romani national organizations
are addressing this disunity. These organizations have succeeded in creating
a growing sense of unity among different groups of Roma which understand
the benefit of organizing across state boundaries in order to advocate
for their individual human rights and their collective rights as a people.
Their cultural and even linguistic differences do not preclude a common
Romani identity because the purpose of this identity is not to develop
According to Acton, Romani nationalism is an ideal that fuels the political
drive to obtain practical benefits rather than a state. Romani nationalism
is an inspiration to a small group of intellectuals rather than a mass
ideology. Elite groups have fostered the broad underlying identity of the
Roma and they have banded together and formed international unions of Roma
from all backgrounds. These Romani nationalists commonly voiced the sentiment
that the Roma were one people when they came to Europe and that they must
bind together as one people again. The belief is that fragmentation was
not the result of voluntary internal factors, but of hostile external ones
(Hancock 1991, 139). Thus, Romani nationalists seek to bring the Roma together
as a cohesive group through international political action.
Any serious talk of a Romani national homeland,
a "Romanestan," has been quite limited. The first World Romani Congress
rejected the idea of attempting to create a national state in 1971. The
movement adopted the idea that "We must create Romanestan in our hearts!"
(Acton 1974, 234240). "Romanestan" serves as a symbol for the Romani nation,
however there is no desire for an actual state. Kenrick and Puxon underline
this fact quoting the Romani activist, Ronald Lee, who asks "What is Romanestan?
I will tell you my brothers. Romanestan is our freedom, freedom to live
as Gypsies under our laws and our way of life" (Kenrick and Puxon 1972,
206). An additional, and important, aspect of Romani national organization
and political rights is the right of the Roma to define themselves. Romani
activists contend that if outsiders continue to define the Roma, they do
not have control over their nation. The notion of self-definition is the
prerogative of any nation; however, achieving this has not been easy for
the Roma who are so often judged by stereotypes.
Political activity among the Roma is not solely a modern phenomenon.
However, it has grown significantly since World War II with Romani organizations
forming in almost every country of Europe including many of Eastern Europe
such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, and
Bulgaria. In 1959, Ionel Rotaru, a Rom who had immigrated to France from
Romania, founded the Communauté mondiale gitane (World Gypsy Community)
which brought different groups of Roma together and in 1965 a splinter
group of this organization formed the Comité international tsigane
(International Gypsy Committee). This committee acted as an umbrella for
Romani organizations of different states with 23 member organizations from
22 countries in 1972 (Liegeois 1994, 250, 257).
The committee worked to achieve recognition from the Council of Europe
and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO). In 1968, it petitioned the United Nations Commission on Human
Rights (UNCHR) for recognition of the Roma as a nation which has been persecuted
since the fifteenth century. In 1971, the committee organized the first
World Romani Congress, the purpose of which was to bring together Roma
from different countries and encourage collaboration in fighting discrimination
according to their own ideals. At this congress with delegates from 14
countries, the International Gypsy Committee was renamed the International
Rom Committee, following the rejection of the term "Gypsy" as a non-Romani
definition of the group with derogatory connotations. The second World
Romani Congress was held in 1978 which 60 delegates and additional observers
attended representing 26 countries. The third and fourth World Romani Congresses
were held in 1981 and 1990 with 300 and 250 delegates attending the respective
congresses. In 1990 the congress was held in Eastern Europe for the first
time, with the first ever participation of Roma from Albania, Bulgaria,
and many Soviet republics (Liegeois 1994, 252259; Tipler 1968, 6170).
Romani activists formed a new organization, the
International Romani Union, during the second World Romani Congress. The
IRU is an umbrella organization which represents 1012 million Roma
and coordinates over 70 regional and state Romani organizations from approximately
30 states throughout the world. The IRU achieved recognition from ECOSOC
and in 1979 was granted observer status in the "Roster" category as a non-governmental
organization. By 1993 it obtained consultative status in ECOSOC. With observer
status the organization was able to contribute their expertise on a periodic
basis and with consultative status it was recognized as an expert on Romani
issues with the task of contributing to ECOSOC on a continual basis. However,
since the IRU was rarely approached for consultation, it returned to observer
status with which it has a seat in the chamber, can participate in all
meetings, and has voting rights. The role of the Romani representative
to the UN is that of a conduit for any issues raised by Romani organizations
(Hancock 1996; Liegeois 1994, 2589). The IRU has a growing role as
a pressure group involved with the Human Dimension of the OSCE and working
with state governments. It also has had an ad hoc involvement with the
EU and with the Council of Europe (Liegeois 1994, 2589).
Since the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet
Union the number of Romani organizations in the former Eastern bloc has
grown rapidly. These organizations, along with their international partners
such as the IRU, have worked to coordinate efforts at the European and
international level in the fields of politics, culture, and education.
One such endeavor resulted in EUROM, the European Rom Parliament, a concept
that emerged from the realization of opportunities for European representation
through the Council of Europe and the EU. This parliament aims to gain
democratic representation of the Roma at the European level through contacts
with European institutions (Liegeois 1994, 255260) and in recent years
has been defining regulations for proposed European-wide elections (Liegeois
and Gheorghe 1995, 2627).
There are still numerous obstacles for the Roma to overcome in their
efforts to unify and organize more effectively. However, their cause has
gained much recognition since the fall of the communist bloc. The end of
communism in Europe has had a dual impact on the effectiveness of Romani
advocacy groups. The ability of Eastern European Roma to organize formally
has led to a greater diversity among Romani advocacy organizations which
may raise problems in creating a cohesive national unit. At the same time,
the upsurge in the number of Romani political and civic organizations and
the attention that the situation of Roma in Europe has garnered since 1989
has certainly helped the national cause by increasing visibility of and
interest in their efforts. Thus, the political activity of the Roma which
resulted from a loose sense of group identity indicates that the Roma are
a nation in the process of developing further unity. While developing this
unity, they are working toward the goal of national self-preservation without
pursuing territorial interests.
The Roma: A New Paradigm for the Nation?
The common identity shared by the Roma (albeit
on a very broad level) along with Romani political mobilization have made
the Roma a nation according to a loose definition of the term as defined
earlier by Smith. Certainly, only part of the nation's traditional definition
holds true for the Roma. They do not share a historic territory nor a common
economy and one could only make a tenuous claim to a mass, public Romani
culture. While the Roma do have their own legal system, the lack of formal
jurisdiction within state boundaries limits the degree to which they can
use this system.
Working for national self-preservation is the goal of a nation under
this new paradigm (as it is under the traditional paradigm of the nation),
but because of the changing nature of state relations and the growing role
for non-state actors, national self-preservation need not depend upon territorial
sovereignty. The Roma are fulfilling a national purpose through their activism
in securing their human rights. While many Romani organizations are addressing
the most basic needs and problems in the fight against discrimination and
the fight for survival, both individually and as a group, they have been
fulfilling a new paradigm of the nation as presented in the third section.
The involvement of the IRU in ECOSOC, the convening of several world Romani
congresses, and the attention generated by various Romani organizations
to the violation of Romani rights (particularly in Eastern Europe) have
all served to bring the Roma together to preserve their nation.
The Roma illustrate the ability of a nation to preserve itself without
a sovereign territory and, indeed, even without a nationally consolidated
territory. While they have a long way to go until their rights are universally
recognized and respected, they have been able to gain a certain degree
of awareness and respect for their national and human rights which would
have been difficult to achieve in earlier years. Pinpointing when states
developed a greater tolerance for intervention in traditionally internal
affairs is not possible, but since the end of the cold war non-state actors,
such as nations, have gained acceptance even when the possibility for statehood
was lacking. States realized that the state system alone does not provide
protection for all state inhabitants. Thus, a nation like the Roma has
been able to use the existing human rights norms that allow (limited) encroachment
upon state sovereignty to work for national self-preservation.
The Romani nation serves as an example for other
nations which do not have their own state such as the Kurds, the Mari,
or the Maasai. Romani identity is maintained through the activism of its
national organizations such as the IRU. This and other Romani organizations
strive for the protection of Romani cultural, economic, linguistic, and
educational rights within the states that the Roma inhabit. They lobby
against assimilation policies that would absorb the Roma into the national
culture of the state and, in this manner, they fulfill the goals of the
Romani nation. However, the success of these organizations' endeavors depends
upon the recognition of their goals as legitimate by other international
organizations such as the UN or the EU. Success also depends on the influence
international organizations have on the internal politics of states. The
UN is becoming increasingly effective in this manner, but changing norms
is still a slow process.
Nations can use certain policies to achieve their goal of self-preservation.
Pressure on states to alter discriminatory policies against nations within
the state is one route to preserving the cultural integrity of nations.
Lobbying efforts, letter writing campaigns, and informing the press of
human rights violations or discrimination have been effective strategies
national organizations have employed. The nation can also operate on the
suprastate level to influence both international organizations and states
to recognize their legitimacy as a nation and respect the rights of nationhood.
Some international organizations have recognized the arbitrary nature of
statehood and the need for disenfranchised groups to have a political outlet.
While stateless nations are not participating members in the UN and other
international organizations, a growing number do have consultancy or observer
status within some of these organizations; this can be another venue for
nations to influence policy. International organizations representing the
nation not only function as advocacy groups in this manner, but can also
preserve a sense of unity in the nation by bringing the many elements of
the nation together to work for a common cause.
Self-determination can occur on a more limited level than statehood
allows. The international organizations and processes described above can
provide the protection of a people who do not have an attachment to one
homeland. This should not be viewed as a second-rate solution, but as a
result of the growing interdependency of the international system. States
are no longer completely sovereign as a result of the acceptance of certain
principles deemed more important than the ultimate right of states to control
what occurs inside their territory. This process of integration necessitates
a new paradigm for the nation.
Since the concept of nationhood emerged, territory
has been central to maintaining the nation. Even today, the necessity of
territory remains central to the ideal of national self-determination.
The need for a change in this ideal seems clear, however. The congruence
of states and nations is not often feasible and the growth of non-state
actors' influence in the international arena makes attaining the goals
of a nation without complete sovereignty possible. The recognition of the
rights of stateless nations leads to a new paradigm of the nation which
is not based on the control of a certain territory. The Roma are a prime
example of how a nation can organize itself in the face of adversity through
the development of interstate representative associations; their efforts
can serve as a model for other nations. Other nations can organize themselves
in a similar manner and seek their national self-preservation through the
structure of the international system (and, in turn, influence this structure),
rather than fighting the system violently and unsuccessfully. A nation
can be represented through its involvement with the UN, the EU, the Council
of Europe, the OSCE, and other regional and international organizations.
Through the recognition of basic collective and human rights, a nation
can preserve its culture, unity, language, and political rights effectively
in a changing international system.
Acton, Thomas. 1974. Gypsy Politics and Social Change. London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Agnew, John. 1987. Place and Politics: The Geographical Mediation
of State and Society. Boston: Allen & Unwin.
Anderson, Benedict. 1982. Nations Before Nationalism. Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the
Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
Barany, Zoltan. 1994. 'Living on the Edge: The East European Roma in
Post-communist Politics and Societies.' Slavic Review 53 (Summer):
Barsh, Russel Lawrence. 1994. 'Indigenous Peoples in the 1990s: From
Object to Subject of International Law?' Harvard Human Rights Journal
33 (7): 3485.
Binder, Guyora. 1993. 'The Case for Self-Determination.' Stanford
Journal of International Law 29 (Summer): 223270.
Coverley, Bernadine. 1995. 'Fellow Travellers: Discrimination Against
Gypsies and Travellers in the UK.' New Statesman & Society,
6 January, 2224.
Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
Grossman, Claudio, and Daniel D. Bradlow. 1993. 'Are We Being Propelled
Towards a People-Centered Transnational Legal Order?' American University
Journal of International Law and Policy 9 (Fall): 125.
Gonzales, Nancie L. 1989. Conflict, Migration and the Expression of
Ethnicity: Introduction. In Conflict, Migration and the Expression of
Ethnicity, edited by Nancie L.
Gonzales and Carolyn S. McCommon. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Gottlieb, Gidon. 1993. Nation Against State. New York: Council
on Foreign Relations Press.
Hancock, Ian. 1987. The Pariah Syndrome.
Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma Publishers, Inc.
Hancock, Ian. 1991. The East European Roots of Romani Nationalism. In
Gypsies of Eastern Europe, edited by David Crowe and John Kolsti. London:
M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Hancock, Ian. 1996. Letter from author. May 11, 1996.
Hannum, Hurst. 1993. Rethinking Self-Determination. Virginia Journal
of International Law 34 (Fall): 168.
Johnston, R.J., David B. Knight, and Eleanore Kofman, eds. 1988. Nationalism,
Self-Determination and Political Geography. London: Croom Helm.
Kedourie, Elie. 1960. Nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kenrick, Donald, and Grattan Puxon. 1972. The Destiny of Europe's
Gypsies. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
Liegeois, Jean-Pierre. 1994. Roma, Gypsies, Travellers. Strasbourg:
Council of Europe Press.
Liegeois, Jean-Pierre, and Nicolae Gheorghe. 1995. Roma/Gypsies:
A European Minority. Minority Rights Group International Report, 95/4.
Simons, Marlise. 1990. Forging a New Gypsy Spirit: Will Sanskrit Help?
New York Times, 27 August, A4.
Smith, Anthony. 1981. States and Homelands: the Social and Geopolitical
Implications of National Territory. Millennium: Journal of International
Studies. 10 (3): 187203.
Smith, Anthony. 1987. The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Oxford:
Smith, Anthony. 1991. National Identity. Reno, NV: University
of Nevada Press.
Tipler, Derek. 1968. From Nomads to Nation. Midstream: A monthly
Jewish review 14 (August/September): 6170.