The Roma Program

Image with text that reads "The Roma Program"

Since 2012, Harvard FXB has implemented an innovative research and capacity-strengthening Roma program which:

  • promotes the rights and participation of Romani children and adolescents,
  • encourages reflection on past and present state-sponsored violence against Roma, and
  • advocates for Roma rights on academic and policy agendas.

Our Goals

The Roma program aims to shift Romani studies away from the margins of academic interest and toward a central place in social and political theory and in multidisciplinary and multiregional studies. We seek to put Roma rights on academic and policy agendas in the United States and elsewhere by amplifying the voices of leading and emerging Romani scholars and leaders through research, events, and publications.

Our Approach

Image of Roma children in a classroomA cornerstone of our program is the use of participatory action research and case study methodologies to give voice to the issues identified as problematic by Roma themselves, to strengthen the capacity of Roma communities, and to support leadership among Roma youth.

In our work with the Roma, we actively create connections to other communities of scholarship, whether it be those focused on dialogue about reparations for collective injustice; those implementing particular methodologies such as participatory action research; those exploring themes such as hate speech; those delving deeply important fields such as minority studies; those bringing wider perspectives such as intersectionality; or those devoted to artistic expression in celebration and sorrow.

We also work closely with young people and scholars—both Roma and non-Roma—to strengthen their capacity for conducting research ethically and professionally, with cultural sensitivity and community participation.

Our Recent Work

Time for Reparations?

We are currently working on a multidisciplinary volume on this topic, originally inspired by the excellent presentations and discussion at “Responses to State Sponsored Collective Violence” the fourth annual Roma conference at Harvard, organized by the FXB Center. We are exploring the respective roles of social responsibility, solidarity, and community advocacy in probing forgotten collective injustice from the past as a basis for constructing viable strategies for anchoring contemporary claims making. The University of Pennsylvania Press plans to publish the volume when it is complete.

Romani Realities in the US: Breaking the Silence. Challenging the Stereotype.

Thanks to a grant from the Cummings Foundation, the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University (FXB Center) and Voice of Roma launched a research project in the summer of 2018 focused on the situation of Roma in the United States. Since 2012, the FXB Center has implemented an innovative research and capacity-strengthening program related to the Roma, who have long been an ill-treated minority, facing persecution and, in the past, even slavery. Up until now, the Center’s Roma Program has worked with Roma living in Europe where they form the largest ethnic minority group. In November 2020, the FXB Center and Voice of Roma released the study’s findings. Read the report, infographic, and press release.

Seventh Annual International Roma Day Events

Learn more about the FXB Center’s International Roma Day events and view event photos here.

One in One Hundred: Drivers of Success and Resilience among College-Educated Romani Adolescents in Serbia

Image of report coverThis report is the culmination of a multi-year research collaboration between the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University (FXB Center) and the Center for Interactive Pedagogy in Belgrade (CIP Center). The report title refers to the 1 percent of Roma who beat the odds and reach university.  The project compared the educational trajectories of 89 Romani adolescents who succeeded in attending college in Serbia and 100 Romani youths from similar neighborhoods who did not. Almost all of the respondents (93 percent) in the sample (both college students and the comparison group) reported that their parents valued education for their children, in contrast to the dominant narrative that Roma are indifferent or hostile to education. In the study, Roma students also revealed they had faced a severe degree of discrimination. What emerges is a challenge to the easy story that Roma lack of educational achievement results from  Roma cultural attitudes rather than persistent racism and poverty. Read a blog about the report here or go to the full report.

Alone Together: Strength and Solidarity between the Roma and African American Communities. On April 4, 2018, Harvard FXB, in partnership with The Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and the Harvard Kennedy School Office of Diversity and Inclusion, hosted Cornel West for a panel on the common struggle of the Roma and African American peoples. See the full discussion below.

Image of Harvard Educational Review coverIn its Summer 2017 issue, the Harvard Educational Review  (HER) published our paper on the Reclaiming Adolescence research project with our partner in Serbia, the Center for Interactive Pedagogy. Jacqueline Bhabha, Arlan Fuller, Margarete Matache, Jelena Vranjesevic, Miriam Chernoff, Boris Spasic, and Jelena Ivanis coauthored “Reclaiming Adolescence: A Roma Youth Perspective.” An op-ed on Voices in Education, the HER blog, accompanied the piece. Go to the blogpost,  “Writing Romani Youth Lives.”

Magda Matache continues her examination of the racialization and othering of Romani people against a white norm in standard Gypsy and Romani studies, with her blog piece, “Dear Gadje (non-Romani scholars).”

Culture Beyond Borders: The Roma Contribution kicked off on April 9 2017 with a very moving one-woman play written by and starring Alina Șerban.  The conference the next day had lively panels and discussion Image of event flyer(see the Roma-Conference-2017-AGENDA here; go to our blogpost about the event, Reclaiming Roma Identity; or search back on our Facebook page for some realtime excerpts). The crowd was still buzzing when we had to end the conference a half-hour late. Thanks to our cosponsors, the Berklee College of Music and the following departments and centers at Harvard University: the Center for European Studies; the Committee on Ethnicity, Migration, Rights; the Mahindra Humanities Center, the Department of Music; the Provost’s Fund for Interfaculty Collaboration; and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Thanks to all who spoke, listened, and helped.

Read a Weatherhead Center April 2017 blog post about the Roma Program, “A Life in the Margins: Understanding the Roma Experience.”

Image of Realizing Roma Rights book cover

Read about our new book, Realizing Roma Rights and a new blog originally written for University of Pennsylvania Press to mark the book’s publication, “Does Power Listen to Truth in the case of the Romani People?”

The December 2017 issue of Harvard’s Health and Human Rights Journal featured a special issue on Roma, “Romani People and the Right to Health.” Read our editorial in the issue,

Image of Grattan PuxonRead a guest blog, “An Account of the First World Roma Congress Held in London in 1971,” from writer and activist Grattan Puxon.


More about Harvard FXB’s Roma Program: