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Principles of an open research framework

The "European Center for Antiziganism Research" (EZAF) is a scientific institution where scientists from different universities and members of the Rom- and Cinti Union (RCU) form a research team with the aim to systematically investigate - with the means of scientific analysis - antiziganistic attitudes and actions in those countries, where members of the Sinti and Roma people live.

Conscious of the fact that the traditional "Gypsy Research" contributed to inhuman political actions, EZAF tries to establish a new research principle based on philosophical reflections, which will put into question discriminating systems of thinking within social institutions in a non-objectifying manner.

The aims of the project are: to initiate sensitization in the institutional discourses and at the same time encourage and support the intellectuals within the Sinti and Roma community in their fight for social recognition and integration.

The Research Hypothesis

Antiziganistic prejudice towards the Roma and Sinti people remains historically unreflected and manifestly tied down in huge parts of the population, but also in the media and the social institutions. It can be uttered freely in all publicity. This is obviously a mental as well as physical declaration of inner-social enemy status, with its well-known side effects that exclude the members of the minority from fulfilling their social capabilities. This needs to be investigated further.

Science and Antiziganism

It is well-known that scientists - backed by a wide-spread racism in the civil society and the academic world - performed discriminating investigations about people under the signum of "Gypsy research", apparently with a clear conscience and "scientific" pretense, during the annihilation politics of National-Socialism. Sometimes helped by the police forces in their empirical investigations, their research did the preliminary work for the ensuing, gruesome politics of banishment and annihilation.

Respected scientists provided the theoretical background for an irresponsible policy which put their theories into practice. On many occasions, the academically educated culprits took active part in these measures, for example as commanding officers of the so-called "Einsatzgruppen".

Even in the democratically constituted post-war Germany, discrimination and persecution of Roma and Sinti continued - sometimes administered by the very same persons and offices that had been responsible for their previous persecution. Discriminating thinking can also be given in so-called "ziganistic research", that is meant to shed a positive light on the Roma and Sinti people. If it does not leave behind the objectifying, outside point-of-view for example in so-called ethnological studies about "gypsy ways of living", then this research remains discriminative. In this research interest, social forms of behaviour become objectified into an ethnic habitus, into a kind of people-specific behaviour, with the result that members of the Roma and Sinti community are automatically degraded to "objects of social welfare".

In spite of all the differences in their research intentions - the scientific thinking behind these research principles shares a fundamental "objectifying optic", with fatal results for the "objectified".

Despite the fact that "the science" does not exist and independent of the question whether our critique of the Objectification Paradigma of modern scientific thinking is accurate in all cases, it does remain a fact that the Sinti and Roma extensively experienced "the science" during their history and have remembered it in their collective consciousness as an institution that has "objectified" them theoretically as well as practically. For these people, "the science" has been suspect to antiziganistic attitudes ever since.

We have to draw conclusions from this.

The Research Principle

The historically reflected and science-philosophically founded ethical position of the scientists of EZAF is based on the general decision not to do research about the Roma or Sinti nor for them, but with them. Not the Roma and Sinti themselves are the problem that needs investigation. The real problem is the discriminating system of thinking in everyday life and within the social (including the scientific) institutions of the majority society - a system of thinking that creates the very "problems" we are dealing with. The practical consequence of this discriminative thinking is that people are denied the chance to fulfil their "capabilities" (Amartya Sen) within society. This is where the social organisations come into play. They mark the intersection points of the individual's living sphere with the material-institutional conditions of the society. In concrete terms: The precarious, historically founded relationship of the Sinti and Roma to the institutions School, Police, Administration, Economy, Science, Church, Media, etc. - institutions that incorporate an "objectifying" view of people that has been established in a long tradition.

The terminological definition of the Research Principle is therefore of essential importance. Fixed terms can also put one's understanding of living in a fixed form, they can make passive, lull you in, remain without a position in a universal context - or they can open up experiences, stir up, create new perspectives and motivate action. A questioning science opens up problems without being reduced to fixed solutions. Institutions like the traditional school or religious priests live from answers which they translate back into non-open questions -thus silencing active thinking.

EZAF understands itself as an open research institution, and apart from that also as a defining place of education for young men and women from the Sinti and Roma community, who will be included in the investigations as experts on their individual and collective experience (in and with school, with administrative offices, within the family discourse, with the police and their representation in the media) while at the same time being trained to work as interviewers within their ethnic minority. They will learn the terminology with which they can put their experience into concrete terms.

The aim of this educational offer is to open up the chance to young people from the Sinti and Roma community to educate themselves to become what Antonio Gramsci called "organic intellectuals": persons who can arguably support and accompany "right from the middle" their people's fight for social recognition and integration - while also maintaining their differences.

The Research Method

They who do research not about or for people, but with them, do not stand outside, above, below or beside their research object, but square in the middle of it. They do their research right from the middle, being a part of it themselves.

This science-critical principle does not need to be developed from the facultatively thinking science disciplines, but has to be newly defined from a philosophical point of view. In this, we take reference to the philosophical ideas of Heidegger, Foucault, Deleuze, Levinas, Bourdieu and the Nobel-prize laureat and economist Amartya Sen.

Therefore, the following remarks necessarily remain abstract, but they can provide an intellectual space for the cooperation of the scientists of EZAF in their various research projects.

A few key points:

  • Since Descartes, the traditional scientific thinking assumes that a transcendental I (meaning a conscious I that is not in the world, but takes in the world from the outside view, so to say) turns the things and people of the world into the "objects" of its researching interest. This is comparable to the activities of a hunter, who gets to the game through an elaborate system of encirclement, in order to be able to slay it with the superior means of his killing instruments. This simile stems from Martin Heidegger, who calls this example of scientific action "determining the world in a transcendental view of its stock". As a result, he does not talk about laws which the exploring human stipulates to see in nature, but of ?Gestelle? (meant metaphorically as instruments of scientific pursuit, a hunt for the rules of nature). The scientific hunter with his targeting telescope casts a limited, "pure" look on the confusing multitude of nature. He himself does not get into the view. His interest is in sorting the multitude out and fixating the object of his interest, put it into the stock, kill it even. In other words: His hunting spirit is "centered" on the definition, the fixation of the hunt's victim. His hunting interest is satisfied if he manages to secure the stock, that means to kill; to shoot down the living, the foreign, the resisting, etc. Needless to say that his hunger is only satisfied temporarily - his hunting spirit will not decrease.
  • Gilles Deleuze calls this scientific thinking "centric", centrifying, meaning reducing the multitude to one single object, so that it is "available" - for any purpose whatsoever. The "Gypsy Research" during National-Socialism has only been the most extreme form of a centric practice of scientific thinking that has been in place more or less unreflected since the Enlightenment. From this critique of science, Deleuze derives his demand for an a-centric research optic: As scientists, we stand square in the middle of the multitude of things, we are part of the events, we are producers of knowledge and its product at the same time. Our task is to raise questions, and to extract from these questions even more questions - with the aim to uncover the fixations of objectifying thinking in the social institutions and in the general public discourse.
  • Of course, thinking can not stop there. Rather, this is about the attempt "to think different than one thinks" (Foucault). This includes to "think different" about the terms of the research's object as well as about the scientific thinking itself, by thinking about the "object" not in objectifying categories (adding it to the metaphorical stock), but as a living ensemble of different characteristics. Michel Foucault suggested the term "dispositive" for this. What exactly a "dispositive" is, is best explained with Foucault's very own words: It is "a decidedly heterogenic ensemble, that encompasses discourses, institutions, architectural constitutions, regulating decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, moralist and philanthropic theorems, in short: The Said as well as the Unsaid. So far for the elements of the Dispositive. The Dispositive itself is a net that can be tied between these elements." The "object" of this "thinking from the middle" research is not a set constant with a recognisable truth, but a complex, moving ensemble of the interactions of individuals within the framework of material-institutional circumstances. There are no answers or definite truths being produced here, but questions that lead to new questions.
  • It gets extremely problematic when scientific research takes the object "human" into its view. In the exploring eye of the scientist, the living singularity is turned into a fixed part of a universal category, with clearly defined characteristics, structures and identities, that can be ascribed or denied without paying regard to the individual. Here again is the "Gypsy Research" of the Nazi era as a "helping hand" for practical politics a good example: The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, whose family fell victim to the Holocaust, taught us that man tries to withdraw himself from any kind of scientific (and political) grasp. And it is precisely this fundamental unavailability of the "other" that binds science (and politics) to a responsibility that can neither be chosen nor neglected - an ethical principle that is committed in its research behaviour to the singular, the living, the inconsistent - the non-killing. From this, the EZAF scientists draw their conclusion not to do research about the Roma and Sinti, but to put into question together with them the discriminating systems of thinking of the social institutions, to see just how far they neglect or allow the people - especially the children and grown-ups of the Roma and Sinti community- to fulfil their "capabilities" (Amartya Sen).
  • It has probably become obvious that this research principle can not be realised in the narrow concept of facultative scientific disciplines. A-centric research "from the middle" can only be done in "trans-disciplinary" cooperations of scientists who are well aware of the problematic constraints of a disciplinary (as well as inter- or poly-disciplinary) object construction.

Practical cooperations

EZAF cooperates with the Roma and Sinti representatives elected into the bodies of the EU.

On the basis of the research concept here developed, EZAF strives for cooperation with scientific institutions (universal and non-universal) and social organisations Europe-wide.

Furthermore, political initiatives are supported that take active part in strengthening the cultural identity of the Roma and Sinti people, while simultaneously accompanying the process of social integration.