There are two main issues related to the position of Roma women in academia on my opinion. One is the fact that there are very few of Roma women on academia due to the exclusionary practices in educational system from preschool to academia, obstacles related to their social background and gender issues in the community.
The other one is the fact that even when they fight their way in, or when academia shows up to be pervious enough to let them to the higher levels of education, the question remains – how their academic status in any way reflects on the propagated social change by the means of education on a wider scale.
This, of course is nothing but a fragment of the much wider debate of the purpose of academia in society and the role academics do, could and should have. Debatable topic not really addressed in the Roma circles, but narrowed down to the question of equal access, usually not even to academic, but to the basic education, even among Roma academics.
The participation of Roma in academia, as the part of a wider society, deep in capitalist crisis and the crisis of its legitimacy, regardless of the proclaimed the third mission of university, is in many cases also mostly focused on the ideas about Antygypsism, or on the brandish theories of performativity coming from the feminist and continental theoreticians.
I do not claim these are irrelevant topics, but they are just the part of the puzzle in an academic milieu, while the perspective on the position of Roma in academia related to the tectonic moves in social structures is left highly unaddressed.
Poverty and education are shown as deeply intertwined in the narrative of ‘the vicious circle of Roma poverty’, but the story about Roma in ‘The Decade of Roma Inclusion’ has a horizon limited by its top-down, liberal, bureaucratic, project oriented and individualistic nature, and it leaves Roma in the belief that when they end up in academia, and when they do their best to graduate, their Roma subjectivity simply ontologically becomes interchangeable with any other.
This is one of the empty promises of academia to Roma on my account, which hits Roma academics hard. It leaves them without clear orientation on the meritocratic ground, which allegedly they conquered, but they know they did not.
It also leaves them open to all kinds of assimilation and usual academic illness of classism, with entitlements to status and power positions, and to the readiness to treat other Roma as non Roma academics did from the moment when they decided to study us.
But these are, of course, all taboo topics among Roma, women and men. Roma women, many feminist, are not in amnesty of the usage of power, but as much as they can speak now with more freedom about the violence of Roma men in the community and their monopoly in the Roma movement, they have very hard time reflecting upon their own structures of dominance.
This is for me an interesting topic, since there are very few Roma women and the future of Roma women in academia depends much on them, or to say on us, very different and unequal in many cases, but united in this privilege of being provided with the pass into the ivory tower, at this point, and for some time, at least. Tomorrow, we might just end up selling socks on the street and our lives might become just the objects of some ‘successful’ academic Roma’s research presented on Harvard’s conference about the bad position of Roma (academics).