Event Four

Roma Feminist & Queer Perspectives: Performance, Scholarship, Activism

24-25 February 2022 (online)

This two-day interdisciplinary event focused on Roma queer and feminist activism, performance and scholarship in Europe, with a transnational perspective; it reflected on strategies and alliances, including between Roma and non-Roma people, across borders and disciplines in the current climate of heightened heteropatriarchal nationalisms. The guest speakers were multidisciplinary artist Mihaela Drăgan, and scholars and activists Dr Lucie Fremlova and Dr Angela Kóczé.

‘Roma Feminist & Queer Perspectives: Performance, Scholarship, Activism’ was led by Dr Ioana Szeman and co-organised with Giulia Casalini, Clare Daly, and Lena Fingu-Gharbi (University of Roehampton, UK).

Mihaela Drăgan, ‘Roma feminist and queer theatre between marginality and the fight against stereotyping

Mihaela Drăgan, ‘Roma feminist and queer theatre between marginality and the fight against stereotyping’

“In each show, we seek to reclaim the art, history and cultural identity of Roma, through stories told by us, Roma actresses.” – Giuvlipen

Mihaela Drăgan presented Giuvlipen, the Roma feminist theatre company from Romania, founded in 2015 by a group of Roma actresses with the purpose of diversifying the theatre movement in Romania – which unfortunately is quite homogenous. The company focuses on Roma women and queer people and makes room for topics that discuss gender from an intersectional perspective. Through theatre performances and other cultural acts, Giuvlipen covers the Roma theatre discourse and practice as it developed in parallel to the escalation of racism and the acute stereotyping of Roma women.

Drăgan examined the landscape of Roma artists, and the institutional framework that neglects Roma theatre and that has laid the ground for creating an independent company. She discussed her artistic practice as an actress, playwright and organiser of Giuvlipen’s performances, which talk about (among others): the hyper-sexualization of Roma women by non-Roma men, sexuality and gender issues in Roma communities, power abuses in theatre and film, and Roma Futurism (science-fictional narratives about a safe future led and controlled by Roma women).

Drăgan’s new experimental film The Future Is a Safe Place Hidden in My Braids (2021) was made available to those participating in the event. The film perpetuates the ideas and principles of Roma Futurism – an artistic concept developed by the artist, which brings together Roma culture and history with technology and witchcraft. The film, which is divided into three parts (Spell for historical trauma, The Anger that will heal me and The Witch’s Seed), depicts new rituals and spells inspired by the practice of the witch Mihaela Minca and her daughters – Casanndra, Ana and Anda.

Reading Group: ‘Roma Feminist & Queer Perspectives’

During this session participants were invited to join an interactive discussion on the themes touched on by the guest speakers. Texts discussed can be found in the reading list (click link below).

Lucie Fremlova, ‘The intersectional experiences of queer Roma’ 

Lucie Fremlova, ‘The intersectional experiences of queer Roma’, Youtube

‘This presentation will flesh out how the lived experiences of queer Roma and their theorisation through the lens of queer intersectionalities challenge the one-dimensional homogenising, often negative stereotypes and essentialising accounts of Roma and Romani identities that persist in academia.’ – Lucie Fremlova

Angéla Kóczé, ‘Transgressing Borders: Challenging Racist and Sexist Epistemology’

‘It is never just about racism, classism, or sexism; it is always the combination of several oppressions that create the intersectional obstacles for Romani women in academia. This paper is an attempt to demonstrate how Romani feminists are shaping and maintaining the content of critical Romani studies by transgressing the constructed binary between activism and scholarship. Through candid confessions, Romani women scholars are exposing the intersecting dynamics between racism and sexism. Their claims challenge the academic epistemology to accommodate a new kind of knowledge production, where different knowledge sources and locations are connected and recognized.’ – Angéla Kóczé

Following the presentations, Kóczé and Fremlova engaged in a discussion responding to each other’s work, and a Q&A was moderated by Ioana Szeman.

Biogs

Mihaela Drăgan is a multidisciplinary artist with an education in theatre who lives in Bucharest and works in several other countries. In 2014, she founded Giuvlipen Theatre Company, for which she is an actress and playwright, together with other Roma actresses.

Since 2016 she has been working in Berlin as an actress for Maxim Gorki Theatre, Heimathafen Neukölln and Theater Aufbau Kreuzberg. She is also a Theatre of the Oppressed trainer, working with Roma women on their specific issues in Romania and with refugee girls in Germany. She was one of the six finalists for the 2017 New York Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award, which acknowledges the exceptional theatre work of 20 women around the world. In 2020 she was once again nominated for this award, and she was a recipient of the Special Award of the League. In 2018, Drăgan was a resident artist in Hong Kong at Para Site Contemporary Art Centre, where she developed Roma Futurism – a project that lies at the intersections of Roma culture, technology and witchcraft. Her performance Roma Futurism has been showcased in art spaces, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (Belgrade), FutuRoma (a collateral exhibition at the Venice Biennale), the Critical Romani Studies conference (Central European University, Budapest) and the Romanian Cultural Institute (London). She was acknowledged by PEN World Voices International Play Festival (New York, 2018) as one of the ten most respected dramatists in the world. In 2019, was one of the playwrights selected for the acclaimed Royal Court Theatre International Summer Residency in London, where she wrote a science fictional play about a utopian society of Roma witches who control technology and fight neo-fascist politics in Europe. In 2021, she exhibited her first video installation Future is a safe place hidden in my braids, a work divided into three short films that depict futuristic rituals for healing the transgenerational trauma of Roma people, whilst projecting a safe future for the community.

https://giuvlipen.com

Dr Lucie Fremlova is an independent researcher who has worked at the interface between academia, social movements and policy. Her close-up, transdisciplinary, innovative research focuses on ethnic, ‘racial’, sexual and gender identities, particularly in relation to the lived experiences of queer Roma. Her book Queer Roma has recently come out (Routledge, 2021) and her article ‘LGBTIQ Roma and queer intersectionalities: the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Roma’ (published by the European Journal of Politics and Gender in 2019), won the EJPG 2021 Best Article and the Council for European Studies Gender and Sexuality Research Network 2019 Best Article Awards. Her article ‘Non-Romani researcher positionality and reflexivity: queer(y)ing one’s privilege’ was the most-read article published in 2019 in the Critical Romani Studies Journal, 1(2).

www.luciefremlova.co.uk 

Dr Angéla Kóczé is a sociologist, Assistant Professor, Chair of Romani Studies and Academic Director of the Roma Graduate Preparation Program at Central European University in Budapest and Vienna. In 2013-2017, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem (NC, USA). She has published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters with various international presses, including Palgrave Macmillan, Ashgate, Routledge and CEU Press, as well as several thematic policy papers related to social inclusion, gender equality, social justice and civil society. In 2013, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, honoured Kóczé with the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award for her interdisciplinary research approach, which combines community engagement and policymaking with in-depth participatory research on the situation of the Roma. She is a co-editor of The Romani Women’s Movement: Struggles and Debates in Central and Eastern Europe (Routledge, 2019, with Violetta Zentai, Jelena Jovanović and Enikő Vincze) and The Roma and their Struggle for Identity in Contemporary Europe (Oxford: Berghahn, 2020, with Huub van Baar).

Giulia Casalini is an independent curator-artist based in London, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Roehampton. Her study analyses artists and collectives from across the globe whose live art practices have been informed by queer-feminist politics, aesthetics and ethics beyond the Anglo-American canons. She is the co-founder and artistic director of the non-profit arts organisation Arts Feminism Queer (CUNTemporary, 2012-2020).

Clare Daly is an artist and researcher doing a PhD in the School of Arts at the University of Roehampton, and in partnership with the Live Art Development Agency. The project attends to sensing entanglement with potential histories (presents futures) through an engagement with feminist performances in Connemara, Ireland. 

Lena Fingu-Gharbi is a current third-year Drama, Theatre and Performance undergraduate student at the University of Roehampton. 

Dr Ioana Szeman is a Reader in the School of Arts at the University of Roehampton; a performance studies scholar and ethnographer, she works at the intersections of feminist, queer and critical race theory. She is the author of Staging Citizenship: Roma, Performance and Belonging in EU Romania (Berghahn, 2018), and recently co-edited the issues “Transnational Feminist Research”(2019) (with Anneeth Kaur Hundle and Joanna Pares Hoare)  and “Sonic Cyber-Feminisms” (2021) (with Annie Goh, Marie Thompson, Irene Gedalof and Sadie Wearing) of Feminist Review. Her latest publications include the chapter “Performance and Citizenship: the Roma in Europe”, in the Oxford Handbook of Politics and Performance (S. Rai, M. Gluhovic, S. Jestrovic and M. Saward, eds., 2021).

Event information:

This event was funded by Techne and supported by the Centre for Research in Arts and Creative Exchange, University of Roehampton. More information about the Techne Confluxes can be found here. If you have further enquiries about this series please contact the organisers at queerfeministcurrents@gmail.com.

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