ResearchDiscrimination against Sinti and Roma in Popular Culture

Press Release No. 124/2023
23 November 2023

Interdisciplinary research project concerned with mechanisms of exclusion and stigmatisation

The exclusion and stigmatisation of Sinti and Roma in German popular culture is the topic of a new interdisciplinary project launched at Heidelberg University’s Research Centre on Antigypsyism. It will focus on the football scene and hip-hop culture, and also shed light on the significance of carnivals. Under the direction of cultural studies scholar Dr Pavel Brunssen, three case studies will be examined for clichés, prejudices and discrimination. The Alfred Landecker Foundation has allocated 600,000 euros to support the project over a period of five years. Dr Brunssen is doing research at Ruperto Carola in the context of the Foundation’s Lecturer Program.

Portrait Dr Pavel Brunssen

“Our research is, above all, concerned to understand the mechanisms contributing to an ongoing exclusion and stigmatisation of Sinti and Roma in popular culture,” Dr Brunssen underlines. “We will also follow up the question of how handing on traumatic memories from one generation to the next impacts on the inclusion and exclusion of Sinti and Roma in the present day.” That is represented in different ways in the respective popular cultures, the scholar says. For example, he points out that Sinti and Roma tend to hide their identity in football but tend to be open about it in hip-hop. The findings of the three interdisciplinary case studies on football, hip-hop and carnival are to be compiled in a book for publication. Here Dr Brunssen will build on his earlier research on antisemitism and antigypsyism in football and in fan cultures.

Dr Frank Reuter, academic director of the Research Centre on Antigypsyism, emphasises the significance of the project: “The funding of this research project by the Alfred Landecker Foundation will enable us to make considerable progress in the understanding and combating of antigypsyism in German society. We are convinced that the results of this project will also contribute to improving both the visibility of Sinti and Roma, and their opportunities for participation.”

Pavel Brunssen studied Social Work and Social Pedagogy at Hochschule Düsseldorf – University of Applied Sciences as well as Interdisciplinary Research on Antisemitism at Technische Universität (TU) Berlin. In 2023 he took his doctorate at the University of Michigan (USA) with a study of the origin of Jewish clubs and antisemitism in European fan and football cultures. His dissertation earned him the Marshall Weinberg Prize, which is awarded by the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies. Pavel Brunssen is the author and joint editor of publications on antisemitism and antigypsyism research.

The Research Centre on Antigypsyism was established at Heidelberg University’s Department of History as the first and, so far, only academic institution in Europe with this thematic focus. Since 2017 it has conducted research into the causes, forms and consequences of antigypsyism in European societies, from the Middle Ages to the present. The purpose of the Alfred Landecker Stiftung, founded in 2019, is to preserve the memory of those who suffered persecution and were victims of National Socialism and to commemorate the Holocaust. The Foundation funds innovative projects grappling with the past and advocating for societal cohesion.