Final report “Romanistan” by Teodora Tabacki

Der Paria findet es dringend notwendig den Abschlusstext über “Romanistan” von Teodora Tabacki zu veröffentlichen. Im Mai 2013 wurde ein Reader “Romanistan ist überall. Markierungen im unwegsamen Gelände.” mit gesammelten Texten aus dem Projekt publiziert. Der vorliegende Text wurde in dieser Form von Gabriele Gerbasits und Patricia Köstring, IG Kultur Österreich nicht akzeptiert mit folgender Begründung:

“Wie Du Dir wahrscheinlich denken kannst, ist er in dieser Form leider nicht publizierbar: Abgesehen davon, dass wir den von Dir angeschlagenen Ton X und den anderen „Deutschen“ gegenüber für menschenverachtend halten und persönlich ablehnen, ist eine Publikation alleine vom rechtlichen Blickwinkel aus problematisch: Jemanden ohne Grundlage, so wie du es tust, als „Deutsche RassistIn“ zu bezeichnen, dürfte durchaus Tatbestände wie Beleidigung oder Üble Nachrede erfüllen.

Einige Passagen das Projekt betreffend sind so unrichtig:

1) Es war nicht die Absicht, die Satelliten mit „Autorität“ auszustatten. Vielmehr handelt es sich bei den Satelliten um ExpertInnen, die aus ihrer persönlichen Expertise heraus mit Projektteilen in Austausch treten, Impulse geben konnten und eine weitere Feedbackstruktur erzeugen sollten innerhalb des relativ starren Systems der Programmabläufe des EU-Projektes. Eine Kontrolle der Geschäftsgebarung war übrigens nicht Aufgabe der Satelliten.

2) Ziel des Projekts Romanistan war nicht, „Vorschläge für den Aufbau einer antirassitischen Platform für kulturelle Protagonismen der Rroma“ zu formulieren. Leider. Es war dies als Metaziel immer vorhanden, vieles wäre hier möglich gewesen, aber Ziel laut Antrag war: „The focus is the deexotification of Roma cultural work. It is essential that cultal work by Roma cease to be defined by others as simply folklore or traditional culture and instead be recognized, supported and sustained as an emancipatory for of cultural work. The key goal is to take Roma cultural work out of isolation and create opportunities for participation (…)“. (S. 22 Antrag EU). Die Rolle von Amaro Drom bei der Umsetzung: „Amaro Drom takes the responsability to implement the projects visions in Germany. We contribute with workshops and many activities mainly with young people (…)“ (S. 30 Antrag EU)

3) Von keiner teilnehmenden Organisation wurden 10.000 Euro an Vorleistungen verlangt. Vielmehr ist das Problem dieser EU-Kultur-Programme bezüglich der finanziellen Eigenleistungen so: Die Organisationen erhalten keine Refundierung für im Vorfeld geleistete Arbeiten; Die Organisationen sind verpflichtet, 50% der Mittel selbst aufzutreiben. Schaffen sie das nicht, muss auch die EU-Förderung aliquot zurückgezahlt werden; Die Organisationen erhalten 30% der EU-Fördersumme erst nach der Abrechung der Förderung, müssen also mit einem maßgeblichen Betrag für einige Monate in Vorleistung treten.

Wir finden es sehr schade, dass all dein Wissen, all deine Fähigkeit, gesellschaftliche und politische Ungerechtigkeit zu erkennen und zu benennen, dein Engagement, sich letztlich in einem so inakzeptablen Text äußern müssen. Er ist dies eben zum einen auf einer menschlichen Ebene. Zum anderen sind einige Fakten aus Romanistan offenbar verzerrt bei Dir angekommen und du hast daher falsche Schlüsse gezogen.

Solltest Du das Skript mit den aus unserer Sicht haltlosen Anschuldigungen so am Sonntag vortragen wollen, müssen wir dir bereits jetzt mitteilen, dass wir uns hiervon öffentlich distanzieren werden und auch keinerlei rechtliche Verantwortung übernehmen.”

FINAL REPORT “ROMANISTAN” BY TEODORA TABACKI
‘Ti ga krstiš, a on prdi’ or on the Vanity of Power

I have to start by thanking Veronika Gerhard for getting me involved and IG_Kultur for the trust invested in my unconventional methods of connecting theory and practice when engaging me as a Satellite.
I’m further thankful to my satellite colleagues Pedro Aguillera Cortes and Ljubomir Bratić for meaningful discussions that were essential for setting the Berlin case into the European perspective. Additional gratitude goes to all academics engaged in anti-racist research that I had a chance to meet through kanak attack, colleagues from b_books, who’ve been for years practicing a culture of discussion proving that political affinities only come into being through opened polemics and Cecke for always being a carefull first reader. Most importantly I have to thank numerous Rroma and Sinti friends for their unpaid investments of time and experience put into briefing me about the racist “normality” that I’ve never had to experience – I do hope that I wouldn’t forget anyone – Magdalena, Vesna, Isidora, Hajdi, Joschla, Roxi, Filiz, Dotschy, Marika, Vera, Ana, Jelena, Borka, Flora, Suzana, Igor, Milan, big and little Sloba, Muha, Dejan, Georgel, Slaviša, Nebojša, Hamze, André, Nenad, Kenan, Alphonso, Sakib … And last but not the least, I have the need to thank all linux developers, who still manage to provide us with free of charge access to text and image production.

As a scientific observer I have accompanied the project “Romanistan” from October 2011 until May 2013 using as research methods text analysis, study of archive material, participative observation, opened interviews and written tests. I have to admit that the evaluation of this project was one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever encountered. this is partly related to the fact that I was endowed with the authority that I’ve never thought I (or any other individual) deserved but much more to the ambivalent object of this case study. Over almost three years my personal and scientific experiences kept oscillating between two poles – whose academic elaboration should by no means soften or reduce the disparity – admiration on one hand and profound disgust on the other.

This stems from the fact that through this project I’ve come in contact with impressive Sinti and Rroma intellectuals but also with their far less impressive and for sure unwanted ‘Non-Roma’ (commonly used to denote Germans) “helpers”. I’ve witnessed extraordinary wisdom, patience and enthusiasm that were put into the realization of all cultural events and miserably materially rewarded and an excessive amount of manipulation, ignorance and vanity in an obvious usurpation of resources that were meant to improve the living conditions of Rroma and the European culture. In order to propose improvement measures I am going to present a short critical overview.

In summer 2011 the project was developed with the aim to propose an anti-racist European platform for Rroma cultural protagonism.
To this goal important financial means were acquired through the program EU Culture. The preconditions for this European funding have however from the very beginning introduced certain difficulties. By this I mean the obligation of participating NGOs to themselves provide important resources (10.000 €) for the first year of the project realization. I would claim that in the development of “Romanistan” this clause has proven absolutly counterproductive – both from the perspective of Rroma and Sinti emancipation and from the perspective of European culture – as it happens to privilege associations that on one hand already have preferential treatment within the national framework and on the other hand don’t deal with either art or culture.

The reasons for preferential treatment in the national context are rather complex. The first and most obvious element for understanding the hegemonic context is the harmonious simplicity of cooperation with organizations that have elected – or more often informal – decision-makers belonging to German majority. The second related aspect is the readiness to reduce politics to morally fulfilling development aid without putting into question the ethnocentric organization of the Nation State and its institutions. This proves especially convenient in the area of inter-cultural youth work that hardly touches upon reducing the structural discrimination and mostly serves as a means for postponing the problem of unemployment among the German youth.

As we have learned from the example of Roma Pralipe Theater and its tragic closing, it seems that the greatest danger for undisturbed functioning of such nationalist power politics comes from the institutionalization of self-managed European Rroma culture initiatives, as they happen to show that Rroma and Sinti are capable of creating both multi-ethnic creative teams and a cosmopolitan culture accessible for the general public. In order to prevent this from happening in the case of “Romanistan” it was by the end of 2012 necessary to impose a xenophobic team of administrators who would despite constructive suggestions of participating scholars and artists set exoticism as the interpretative framework.

Already in the introduction to her previous “Roma”-publication the appointed coordinator Lith Bahlmann made several strategies of implementation of this goal explicit. To start with the use of nonsense: after choosing Roma artists for her object of reconsideration, she expresses hope to contribute to the recognition and equal treatment of artists of this heritage, avoiding branding them with the “ethno-label” along the way [1]. To prevent ethno-labeling of artists presented exactly because they are Roma (preferably kind to Gadje and not making accusations) she continues referring to those curated with “Roma-artists” thus implying that there was something questionable about their ethnic belonging or artist status.

Next strategy could be called historical revisionism: by choosing to label Karl Stojka with artist of the first generation [2] Ms. Bahlmann establishes a wholly new calender not surprisingly starting with the birth of the Holocaust, thus creatively adding to contemporary aspects of Roma and Sinti life ranging from deportation to careeristic instrumentalization. Avoiding to deal with any of the crucial authors like Bhabha, Said, Spivak, Fanon or Glissant she goes on to claim: We want to engage in postcolonial discourses that represent ideas of pluralism, trans- and inter-culturalism and a cultural politics of difference … to finish her sentence with the constitution of the image of non-European peoples and cultures – colonised or not – as the “Others” [3]. The obscurantism is finally put to perfection in the next sentence claiming that the social challenges have brought about growth in migration [4].

Using the Deleuze quote: Méfiez-vous du rêve de l’autre, parce que si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre, vous êtes foutu [5] as a slogan for her article finally displays with unparalleled clarity that Ms. Bahlmann failed to grasp the very sense of this important warning for all those who attempt to engage in other people’s emancipation. Yet leaving aside this pathetic textual piece of self-legitimation, the arguably most vicious strategy only becomes visible in the book imprint. With thirteen different names none of whom reveal Sinti or Rroma origins (and mostly repeated in the following “Roma”-publication [6]) this editorial politics of friendship gives a vivid example of blunt racist segregation in practice.

Along with the appointed project coordinator all protagonists had the opportunity to meet other “professional” assistants (January to May 2013). Thanks to Denhart v. Harling the project was given a public statement apparently designed to remove any interested audience.
V. Harling begins his announcement with a catchy phrase: In present debates about Europe and the European crisis, the voices of minorities – and especially the biggest European minority of Roma – find little attention [7]. knowing that Europe primarily represents a monetary union whose crisis is of financial nature, leaves the reader with a puzzle: as they hardly belong to either the economic elite whose insatiable greed ravages the world or to the political elite facilitating the postfordist backlash, why should Roma of all people voice their opinions about the crisis?
They are not only non-eligible for credits but often devoid of elementary human rights (not to speak of political representation) still reserved for citizens in the sense of nationals. As opposed to centuries of institutional discrimination of Rroma and Sinti this much debated crisis [8] arguably couldn’t concern them less – as Benjamin wrote: the tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule [9].

To stress what the topic of the conference actually was – and despite the expressed desire to discuss artistic strategies of resistance – the publication editor Matthias Reichelt – previously known for his documentary photographs setting Porajmos in life cycles of flora and fauna [10] – provided the Sinti and Rroma cultural protagonists with ”interesting” questions for the discussion: – What is the role of ethnic identity in your artistic work? – How would you describe your artistic work in relation to the majority culture, i.e. culture of Non-Roma and Non-Sinti? – Do you want to be perceived through your ethnic identity or “only” through your artistic work? – What is the role of anti-gypsism in your artistic work? – Do you see your artistic work as a part of national culture or do you rather see yourself as a part of transnational art and culture? – What is the role of nationality in your artistic work?

After deciding that there was no need for moderation Ms. Bahlmann then spent half an hour annoying eight participants, one translator, one scientific observer and twelwe members of the audience (four out of five Rroma only present out of friendship or family ties) by reading the written CVs of the participants out loud, without having enough decency to use the two weeks of her unavailability before the conference to practice the pronunciation of their “complicated” names. The statements of participants themselves have in various ways and with a lot of irony expressed criticism of paternalistic approach and bourgeois Roma-marketing. Of course apart from Moritz Pankok, who first used the opportunity to share details on his working surrounding made out of people often surprised to learn that there exists visual art produced by Sinti and Roma to then wave his gallery keys into everybody’s nose and say This is an offer you have to accept.

In a brilliant parody of the closing sentence of v. Harling’s public announcement: Gesellschaftliche Mechanismen von Ethnisierung, Exotisierung und kultureller Homogenisierung werden mit künstlerischen und kulturtheoretischen Mitteln untersucht – einerseits, um zu einem Dialog und einer differenzierten Wahrnehmung beizutragen und zum anderen, um diese für die eigene Emanzipation einsetzen zu können, Slaviša marković gave a perfect summary of a dialogue of culture and power structure called “Romanistan”: Gesellschaftliche Mechanismen von Ethnisierung, Exotisierung und kulturelle Homogenisierung wurden mit künstlerischen und kulturtheoretischen Mitteln für die eigene Emanzipation eingesetzt. With ‘own emancipation’ we of course mean material profit and career profiling of four concrete German racists: Lith Bahlmann, Matthias Reichelt, Denhart v. Harling and Moritz Pankok.

To conclude I would say that the project nevertheless ended up successfully: simply ignoring the usurpation by this phalanx, the protagonists have once again shown professional responsibility, artistic virtuosity, political intelligence and human and intellectual integrity; the Herdelezi Street Festival took place like every year in Boddinstr, Neukölln with rich cultural program and hundreds of visitors of all imaginable origins’; growing community continues to support Rroma Aether Klub Theater, the only self-managed Rroma cultural institution of general interest; and – like in every fairytale – Amarodrom became aware of the fact that a sudden increase in membership could not only easily send the treasurer to an alternative post (for the sake of the fairytale: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) but also practically realize the reparation through material redistribution. I just hope those who let themselves play ‘harkis’ [11] by choosing the ‘kindness to Gadje’ as their personal survival strategy would eventually learn, that the emancipation can only be a collective process and that no material gain can compensate for the stigma of collaborationism.

After almost three years I also believe that I have an answer to the question why culture doesn’t appear on the priority list of ‘The Roma-Strategy 2020’. The first reason is that it represents an area of public interest and that even the readers of Bildzeitung have enough capacity to distinguish – be it in art or soccer – between genuine quality and worthless parasitism. The second reason probably lies in culture’s resemblance to the European legal system (in its important part based on common law): regardless of the given power relations it namely offers the possibility of a precedent. And those individuals who’ve managed to overcome the programed destiny of their minority – complete marginalization or melancholic assimilation – have at all times and despite their statistical irrelevance a chance to prevail – simply by having common sense, truth and justice on their side.

Teodora Tabački 
12th of May, 2013 in Domžale/Bruxelles/Berlin

[1]   see Bahlmann/Reichelt (eds.) Reconsidering Roma: Aspects of Roma and Sinti life in contemporary art, Göttingen 2011, p.12
[2]   ibid. p.13
[3]   ibid. p.13
[4]   ibid. p.13
[5]   ibid. p.11
[6]   see Bahlmann/Pankok/Reichelt (eds.) Das schwarze Wasser: das Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus ermordeten Sinti und Roma Europas, Göttingen 2012
[7]   our translation, in German original: Bei der derzeitigen Rede über Europa und über die europäische Krise finden die stimmen der Minoritäten – insbesondere die der größten europäischen Minderheit der Roma – kaum Gehör.
[8]   for German speakers I would suggest: Lazzarato, M. Fabrik des verschuldeten Menschen, Berlin 2012
[9]   Benjamin Theses on the Philosophy of History, NY 1969, p. 257
[10]  see the quoted publications Reconsidering Roma and Das schwarze Wasser
[11]  more on ‘harkis’ in Fanon The Wretched of the Earth, NY 2004

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Roma Industrie hat Konjunktur / The Roma Industry is Booming

Filiz Demirova im Gespräch/ in conversation
12/05/13
Der Paria
ARTBRUTvideo,
http://www.marikaschmiedt.wordpress.com

“Mit welcher Unverfrorenheit Patricia Koestring (IG- Kultur Österreich) in dem Gespräch behauptet, ich hätte das Honorar von € 100,- für angemessen befunden und sie hätte das auch schriftlich, darüber ärgere ich mich jeden Tag. Vor allem weil die geplante Diskussion mit Filz Demirova, Georgel Caldararu und mir einfach abgesagt wurde. Zudem finde ich es äußerst fraglich, wenn Frau Koestring und Frau Gerbasits (IG-Kultur) Positionen die sich kritisch mit dem Projekt Romanistan auseinandersetzen zensurieren und somit jeden Diskurs verunmöglichen.” (Marika Schmiedt)

“With what audacity Patricia Koestring (IG Culture Austria) claims that I found the honorarium of 100 euros appropriate, and that she has the same in writing. I am angry about that even now. Especially because the discussion planned with me, Filiz Demirova and Georgel Caldararu was cancelled. Further, I find it highly questionable that Frau Koestring and Frau Gerbasits (IG Culture) censor positions that engage critically with the Romanistan project, and make such a discourse impossible.”
(Marika Schmiedt)

The Roma Industry is Booming

00:38 text:
Teodora Tabacki in conversation with Filiz Demirova

01:03
Filiz Demirova is an author and activist. Co-founder of the magazine Der Paria, Member of EDEWA, Exhibition organizers (The Purchasing Cooperative of Anti-Racist Resistance) Co-initiator of the protest letter “Stop Organic Garlic Romanes”

01:46
Roma communities often do not have access to resources to apply to national or EU funds.
Consequently other organizations and representatives take up the application.

02:26
extensive fundraising opportunities Similar problems exist across Europe. No one knows how much money exactly the EU has spent over the years on “Roma Integration”.

00:31
TT: What were your experiences, the concrete moments where you felt you were disregarded, or even industrialized?

FD: Well, I was thinking about how to talk about my experiences, and I would like to start by quoting Paulo Freire: We can not enter the struggle as objects, in order to become later subjects. I am a Romni, born in Berlin. I have come to terms with my biography, and want to produce something new, without reproducing clichés.

01:30
I participate in projects and respond accordingly, that is, when I find things dubious or problematic, I address them.

01:45
I consider it my right, it is legitimate, to express criticism when I find something problematic.

01:54
But, in all honesty, I have the impression that criticism is not welcome, because many people profit through the current state of affairs, through the Roma industry.

02:05
And naturally people don’t want to simply give up their positions of power, since they profit from it.

02:15
It was very difficult for me to have my critique taken seriously, and not just dismissed.

02:24
Once, for instance, in a hierarchizing way. I was inferior, because maybe I don’t have a diploma, or a bachelor’s degree, or a PhD or whatever.

02:38
The attitude was that things have to be this way, for the reason, that you don’t have the expertise, in the way in which I, as a white German, do. So I have the power and the right to say, no, I prefer the press release to be done this way, because that is what preferred in society, and this is how it should be done.

03:08
There were other instances also, like for example, my way of publicizing the event on my blog – it’s up to me to decide how I want to present it.

03:23
I have not signed a contract, stating that I’m being paid to advertise this.

03:31
But then when I am pressured and told, you have to do it in this way, because that’s the correct way, and if you do it differently, there could be bad consequences, I feel treated like a small child that has made a mistake, and who must be taught the right way.

03:49
This paternalistic attitude is quite common in anti-racism work.

03:56
This should be thematized much more frequently, this attitude.

04:05
I am marked as a Romni – and so I must be taught. These are the norms, these are the rules of this society, and this is how things work.

04:16
But: who makes these norms? And who remains unmarked? And why is the white position, the position of power never talked about.

04:29
This is my question. Why I made the Other, without the right to carry things out as I prefer.
I have no power, and I can maybe express my criticisms, but they are immediately brushed aside.

04:50
First, in general, I would like to say, that it is the norm that mostly non-critical Roma are invited to such conferences. That is, they are marginalized and receive very little attention.

05:10
They could contribute valuable work to the Roma movement, but they are not visible, and perhaps even prefer not being in the center because

05:23
at many of these conferences discussions are superficial, and only allow for little critique, in order to maintain a certain image.

05:40
So while the EU makes these attempts for the equal treatment of Roma etc., there really isn’t an interest in changing the status quo, or in participating in a dialogue and really listening to critical opinions.

05:57
Often people with critical opinions are not invited. Concerning Romanistan, I want to thank Teodora for inviting me, here, for this interview.

06:10
For instance, Georgel and I tried having Marika Schmiedt at the conference. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for various reasons; for one, when we said we’d like to have Marika for the closing meeting,

06:38
this rather excuse-like argument came forth, that that wasn’t their responsibility. For that, we would first have to go to Austria, then get in touch with these people, and so on – these bureaucratic excuses.

07:00 – 07:05:
PK: That is the case though. Sorry about interrupting.

07:05
FD: Yes. This is however my opinion and perspective, and I am critical. I would like to finish speaking first, and then you can say something about that.

07:17
In any case I find it a bureaucratic excuse because… ideally, a wish should be taken seriously, and an actual attempt should be made to get it underway; and as supporters, at their own initiative, and as per the concept Romanistan is based on:

07:45
the encouragement of empowerment. Which implies that Roma should be able to express their wishes, should be able to say whom they would like to invite, whose work and art they would like to engage with, and hence have at the conference.

08:10
That’s why I consider it a bureaucratic excuse.

08:21
PK: It only required a phone call, or asking what the email address was.

08:29
FD: I’d like to add something to that. It’s my opinion, and Marika Schmiedt too was extremely upset about it, the fee of 100 € which I was paid, is also much too little.

08:58
That’s the question. How valued is the work of Roma artists and activists. Do they receive the same sorts of fees that white Germans receive?

09:14
And what is the interaction with the artists and activists like? Is it respectful? Is it with an attitude which suggests people working together on an equal footing? Or is it rather a hierarchical interaction?

09:35
PK: I’d like to say that Marika found the fee of 100 € for participating in the interview reasonable, and I have it in writing.

09:40 text display:
Patricia Köstring IG Culture Austria

09:45
Veronika Gerhard: In your place, I wouldn’t get stuck now on this issue. Teodora Tabacki: I don’t want to lose track of the discussion.

09:46 text:
Filiz is obviously correct. That is not true!!! I was very angry about the fee of 100 €.

09:58
PK: I don’t want to just leave things at that. She said she found the fee inadequate.

10:09:
TT: To that question I have to add, that 50 artists and cultural producers participated in the project, and who earned 600 € on average.

10:26
The four people who organized the project earned a little less than 6,700 € each. In my opinion, this is a dramatic difference, and really a scandal. It’s interesting that this material discrepancy overlaps with hegemonic forms of interaction.

11:05
FD: As someone affected by Anti-Romaism, I find it very problematic that the project claims the organizers included among others Georgel Caldararu and Slavisa Markovic, when they, as I could see, were not entirely granted their rightful say in the process, and were paid less, and had to spend their entire time struggling to put together their cultural production. And I am quite happy to bring up these issues.

11:48
It’s a condition which we’ve faced for years. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about them.

11:59
I have brought up examples to illustrate these structures. That was my objective.
These examples are relevant to many projects, this is in fact how most Roma projects proceed.

12:18
It’s about the substance of these projects. What gets reproduced in these projects? What is new?
What products emerge in the process?

12:36
For example, take the exhibition at the Saalbau here in Berlin. A politician from Neukölln, who had also initiated the Organic Garlic Romanes project in Neukölln, an Anti-Roma project, was invited to speak at the opening.

12:59
And I think it’s important to address the political context – what is going on here right now, what do we want to do.

13:10
This was not considered at all by having this person, who had initiated such a violent project in the very district that we were in, open the exhibition.

13:26
Another example: When Hungary is the topic of discussion, and the circumstances there, the persecution and murder of Roma people, these pogroms that are happening, are hardly discussed, there is very little substance to the discussion for me.

13:45
I am very politically active, and the questions of how we’re working, and how we’re showing this work, are extremely important to me.

Translation by Simran Sodhi