Problems with direct questions on ethnicity: the case of Roma minorities in Hungary

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

Description of Activity

With vitriolic media stories, draconian government measures and discriminatory attacks by far right groups, the problem of discrimination against Roma minorities – or ‘Romaphobia’ - is said to the last acceptable form of racism in Europe today. This paper examines how discriminatory attitudes can be researched empirically, examining the challenges of direct questioning about ethnic conflict. The research draws on qualitative research, including observation, fieldnotes, visual images and interviews (‘photo elicitation’) carried out with young Roma and non-Roma people in Hungary during 2013, funded by the British Academy Small Grant. Taking up criticisms of sociological research as over-focusing on the interview, this paper considers what can be learned from looking beyond the interview in qualitative research and the implications for the study of ethnicity or ‘race’, particularly in conflict situations. The findings show that post-socialist discourses on Roma minorities do not always conform to notions of an ‘ethnic other’ and the paper calls for a broader inter-disciplinary discussion of prejudicial language and notions of ‘belonging’ and ‘inclusion’ with regards to marginalised groups such as Roma minorities. The paper draws on examples from research that show how understandings of ethnic and racial categorisations shift when research approaches transcend ‘the interview’.
Period16 Apr 2015
Event titleBritish Sociological Association Annual Conference: Societies in Transition: Progression or Regression?
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • ethnicity
  • interviews
  • methodology
  • representations