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How Theoretical Cacophony and Practical Inhibition Paralyzes Efforts for the Social Inclusion of Roma in Hungary

Monday, September 11, 2023, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm

The Inequalities and Democracy Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute cordially invites you to its seminar.

If you would like to attend, please register here.

Please keep in mind that external guests will not be able to enter the building without prior registration.

The paper was triggered by a recent empirical research showing how efforts for integrating Roma employees by companies in the business sector are impeded by the difficulty to identify and target them, i.e. how the adversity of conceptualizing and operationalizing Roma ethnicity for the purposes of preferential treatment emerges and becomes an important constraint for strengthening Roma’s labour market presence. The case of the Hungarian Roma is brought to show the consequences of confused conceptualization as an ethno-racial group, as a national minority and as a socially disadvantaged group, along the cacophony of operationalizing schemes, bringing the worst of all regimes, and in addition a climate of ethnic data processing-phobia, and an institutional proneness to ethno-corruption. In social sciences and law, the purpose of typologies and classification is to help us understand the internal logic and substance of concepts and institutions. Thus, classification arguably has consequences beyond academics raising an eyebrow, as it can imperil policy goals and increase discrimination and marginalization and make the very instruments vulnerable to abuse by fraud. We will argue that the often well-intended ethnic data processing concerns are legally unfounded and that even the strictest data protection/privacy regimes allow ‘talking about’ race and ethnicity, i.e. processing ethno-racial data under certain circumstances.

The seminar starts with a 25-minute presentation of the paper followed by the comments of the discussant. Then the floor will be open for participants to ask questions and discuss the research. To be able to actively take part in the discussion, please read the draft paper beforehand which is available upon request from the author. 


Vera Messing is a Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute as well as a senior research associate of Center for Social Sciences. She earned her PhD in Sociology at Budapest Corvinus University in 2000. Her work focuses on comparative understanding of different forms and intersections of social inequalities and ethnicity and their consequences. She is specifically interested in policy and civil responses to ethnic diversity in the field of education and labor market; migration and migrant integration; attitudes towards racialized minorities and immigrants; media representation of racialized groups and conflicts; social science methodology and measurement of social phenomena. She has been involved in the coordination and research activities for several European comparative research projects in the above topical fields (FP7, H2020) and she is also the lead researcher of the Hungarian team of the European Social Survey, ERIC. She has widely published in academic journals and books.

Andras Laszlo Pap is Recurrent Visiting Professor in the Nationalism Studies Program at CEU, and Research Chair and Head of the Department for Administrative and Constitutional Law at the Centre for Social Sciences Institute for Legal Studies in Budapest. He is also Professor of Law at ELTE Institute for Business Economics and the Law Enforcement Faculty of the Ludovika University of Public Service in Budapest, Hungary. A former SASRO-Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Institute of Sociology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava, he has been visiting scholar at New York University Law School’s Global Law Program, honorary fellow and visiting researcher at the University of Aberdeen Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law, and Erasmus visiting professor at the University College Dublin, Faculty of Law. He is a member of several editorial boards and international research networks, and was invited speaker and expert at the UN’s Forum on Minority Issues and trainer at the International Law Enforcement Academy. He often served as expert for courts in the UK. He is a member of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and regularly works with human rights NGOs.


Luca Varadi is a former Marie Sklodowska-Curie research fellow and Assistant Professor in the Nationalism Studies Program at CEU. Her research focuses on ethnic prejudices and especially on the formation of prejudice in adolescence. She obtained her PhD in sociology at the Humboldt University in Berlin and afterwards served as a research fellow at Humboldt University and the University of Hamburg. She graduated in 2006 from the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest and specialized in ethnic and minority studies. Between 2006 and 2008 she was involved in research on migration and integration and worked for the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Research Institute of Ethnic and National Minorities and for the Menedek Organization for Migrants. In Germany, she participated in the Interdisciplinary Institute for Conflict and Violence Research’s study on Group-Focused Enmity in Europe. She also works together with teachers and NGOs to utilize research results for school-based intervention programs against prejudice.