Activation (Works) without mobility, labour and structural vulnerability in neo-liberalising Slovakia

This paper explores how Roma in eastern Slovakia navigate their formal unemployment and manage their income generating strategies in the context of state policies of activation, economic crisis and neo liberal workfare reforms. It examines ethnographically the concept of ‘activation’ (to) work against the backdrop of increasing immobilities faced by long term unemployed Roma in Slovakia. Based on anthropological fieldwork in Eastern Slovakia, the present paper will be situated within the larger processes of re-drawing lines of economic precariousness, formal/informal distinctions, insecurity, and politics of deservingness and moral citizenship in the transforming modes of governing minorities in Slovakia.

Being officially categorized as long term unemployed, and even ‘unemployable’ in public discourses in Slovakia, most Roma combine various precarious economic strategies, welfare and state workfare ‘activation’ programmes in Slovakia and project their hopes to dreams associated with labour migration. This paper interrogates ethnographically some normative assumptions underlying discourses surrounding policies targeting longCterm unemployed in Slovakia, which evolve around their alleged ‘activity’ and ‘inactivity’. More specifically, it explores how ideologies and policies of labour activation operate on various scales and in everyday practices of those who are implementing them and those who are targeted by these.

Jan Grill

Associated Researcher, Centre for Policy Studies, Central European University, Budapest

  • Topic of the paper:Roma migrations and socio-economic mobilities of labour markets in Central Eastern Europe
  • Research interests:Ethnicity and race, mobility and migration, nationalism, marginality, ethnography of state and borders, politics of multiculturalism, inequality, identity