Roma: The Invisible Workers of Post-socialism

Barbora Cernusakova, University of Manchester
Labor Relations, Law and Economics, Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations, Sociology, Theory, Work
Keywords - surplus population, ethnography, racial capitalism, post-socialism, urban marginality, debt

My research aims to shift the paradigm away from the category of unemployment of racialised Roma workers towards underemployment.
Drawing on eleven months of ethnographic research among racialised Roma workers in the city of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, I empirically explored the category of racialised “surplus population”. I make the case that, though Roma workers are integrated among wage labourers but remain contained in low-paid, stigmatised and precarious jobs, in a racialised condition of under-employment.

I situate my analysis in the context of debates about post-socialism (Hann, 2002; Kideckel 2002, 2009; Verdery, 2002, 2003; Kalb, 2019), paying particular attention to changes in class formations (Drahokoupil, 2015; Morris, 2016, Ost, 2019). To date, class-based analysis is still largely missing in scholarship on the Eastern European “transition to capitalism”, partially as a result of the suppression of the notion of class conflict as something illegitimate in the post-socialist period.

My work received Manchester Doctoral College Excellence Award for Best Outstanding Output in 2022; and “Honorary Mention” in the Law and Political Economy Writing Prize awarded by the Harvard Law School Political Economy Association in June 2021.