Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Negotiating Roma Identity in Contemporary Urban Romania: an Ethnographic Study

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Lara Martin Lengel (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Karen Kakas (Other)


This dissertation is a critical ethnography of the Roma ethnic minority in post-communist Romania within the socio-economic and political context of the country's post-accession to the European Union. The focus broadly is on the identity negotiation of the Roma minority in Romanian urban space. To this end, I explore Roma communicative practices in capital city of Bucharest. I examine the urban intercultural contact zones that represent Roma-non Roma relations and interactions. I draw on the productive "travelling" postcolonial theories and translate them into an examination of the Roma minority in Romanian physical space. My ethnography is informed by postcolonial theoretical frameworks that challenge the seemingly dichotomous colonizer/colonized relation. I look at discursive practices among Roma individuals suggesting alternative epistemes to allow for a nuanced understanding of the Roma-non Roma encounter. My methods include in-depth interviews, participant observation, and direct observation. The personal narratives of the 35 participants involved in this study emphasize a range of identity negotiation patterns. These reveal in turn complex, interrelated configurations of internalized oppression, passing, and hybridity that make possible both resistance and conformity to the dominant cultural production of the Gypsy Other. This research is an attempt to produce a constructive impact on policy and practice and therefore addresses the urgent need for critical, responsible inquiry that explores the diversity of Romani experience.