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Doctoral defense: Sara Swerdlyk 'The Refugees of Illiberalism: Capitalist crisis, rightwing populism, and social reproduction through the prism of Hungarian Romani asylum-seeking to Canada'

CEU Vienna
Friday, May 5, 2023, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

This dissertation is a critical history of contemporary Romani asylum-seeking from Hungary to Canada. Since the start of the postsocialist era in the 1990s, more than 25,000 Roma have left Hungary and moved to Canada to file for refugee protection, making them one of the largest groups of asylum-seekers in the Canadian refugee system. Here this movement is analyzed by locating it within struggles of work and social reproduction connected to contemporary capitalist crisis. The dissertation examines the dynamics of postsocialist capitalism that have resulted in a crisis of social reproduction in Hungary, in which Hungarian Roma have become a racialized surplus population, both excluded from labour markets and targeted by rightwing populists. The dissertation analyzes the labour history that forms Romani asylum-seeking, emphasizing that the history of Romani asylum-seeking to Canada is deeply intertwined with histories of work and social reproduction in both Hungary and Canada. Overall, I study the experiences of Romani refugees to develop and advance a general theory on neoliberal capitalism, social reproductive crises, and the rise of rightwing populism. The central argument of the dissertation is that Hungarian Romani asylum-seeking has emerged as a social reproduction strategy and gendered form of work born from the conditions of postsocialist neoliberal capital accumulation. The emphasis is thus on the local and individual choices made as Romani refugees respond to large-scale historical global changes, framing surplus populations as agents of history engaged in their own forms of subsistence and struggle against capital. The dissertation is based on two years of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Miskolc, Hungary, and Toronto, Canada, and employs a Gramscian ‘ethnographic Marxism’ that uses local oral histories of economic transformation to build a critical history of Hungarian Romani asylum-seeking to Canada.

Non-CEU affiliates or online attendees please register here.