The ease of stereotypes and the unease of the ethnographer: Negative talk about cigányok [‘Gypsies’] in cigány families

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

Description of Activity

This paper focuses on how families from a minority background can easily slip into stereotypical talk about people from their own minority group. In this article I analyse interactions from longitudinal ethnographic research in Hungary, using examples from a study concerning young ‘Roma’ (known locally as ‘cigány’ [‘Gypsy’]) adults in Hungary. Similar to Blackledge & Creese’s (2015) conclusions, these examples show that social differences are “regularly produced in the deployment of metapragmatic stereotypes”. However, in this article I go further to look at how I, as the ethnographer, handle such interactions in the research setting. Focusing on two examples using recorded data from fieldwork, I show how my reaction and then reflection is important in understanding the kinds of stereotyping and racist talk that takes place. My unease at certain moments in the interactions causes me stutter or be silent. It is the ethnographic knowledge through observations and reflexive work that redeems my ineptitude in handling what I see as uncomfortable talk. This research generated both oral data and photographs taken by the participants themselves of their everyday family lives. The examples show that focusing solely on declarative statements on ethnicity/‘race’ made by interview informants is reductive and offers an exceptionally narrow understanding of the realities of social life and social interaction. A closer look at the data, including how participants describe their family lives, and comparing and contrasting this to the ways they present themselves in photographs of their everyday lives and in communication with others, are a way of mitigating these problems.
Period17 Jul 2017
Event titleInternational Pragmatics Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number15
LocationBelfastShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • racism
  • stereotyping
  • ethnography
  • ethnographer
  • politics of research
  • family discourse
  • metapragmatic stereotypes
  • methodology