Roma popular culture in an age of securitization: a move from ‘other’ to ‘enemy’

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Description of Activity

This paper explores the changing relationship between popular culture and securitization. It does this by examining the trend of the ‘Gypsy celebrity’ in the 21st century (‘Gypsy’ being the word most used in popular culture). Firstly, the paper looks at the early stages of this modern form of the Gypsy celebrity, when the prominence of Gypsy rap artists and pop singers of Roma origin were gaining a popular fan base and winning prizes in prominent TV music talent shows such as X-Factor (UK), American Idol (USA) or Megasztar and Superstar (Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic). At this time, the cultural landscape for the public representation of Roma seemed to be shifting, with Gypsy celebrities offered follow-up reality shows or prominent public appearances (e.g. in adverts, on chat shows or supporting charities). Such appearances - whilst still positioning the Roma celebrities as ‘Roma’ and ‘other’ - did offer an alternative to the continually circulating negative public image of Roma, which had been mired in notions of difference, underclass and criminality. Reality TV shows focusing on Roma, Traveller or Gypsy people (e.g. Big Fat Gypsy Weddings in the UK and the USA, or Gyozike in Hungary and Vali Vijeile in Romania) then became popular from the mid-2000s. Such reality formats have been aired at an increasingly tumultuous time for Roma in Europe, with widening inequality occurring in a more precarious economic and political climate. The shift to an era of securitisation has altered the landscape, and the initial signposts that suggested the ‘Gypsy celebrity’ might challenge common stereotypes have changed direction. Such shows have moved from celebrating to denigrating, with spin off programmes revealing the new sole focus on criminality (e.g. Gypsy Blood and Gypsies On Benefits & Proud, both UK). The second half of this paper examines this terrain of popular culture in the context of the current ‘war on terror’, asking how shifts in such culture can help illuminate key concepts of Roma as ‘other’. Such shifts in popular culture turn the ‘other’ into ‘enemy’, as Roma are moved outside of the realm of ordinary popular culture (and politics) and into the realm of exceptional measures.
Period3 Jun 2016
Event titleInternational conference: "The Politics of Security. Understanding and Challenging the Securitization of Europe's Roma": Sonderforschungsbereich/Transregio 138 "Dynamics of Security"
Event typeConference
LocationGiessen, GermanyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • security
  • securitization
  • popular culture
  • television
  • celebrity
  • representations
  • racism
  • inequality
  • gender
  • class
  • reality television