“We have nowhere else to go” A study of urban informality within a Roma settlement in Arad, Romania

By: S. Fraser

The complexities of urban informality are increasingly being examined in nuanced and region specific ways. Within the post-socialist states of Central-Eastern Europe, a growing body of research is interrogating phenomena within urban environments through the lens of transition and the unique historical and social dynamics of the area. In Romania, one such phenomena is the overrepresentation of Roma in informal settlements on the peripheries of urban centres. This thesis engages with this issue through the undertaking of an ethnographic case study of a settlement in the city of Arad. Firstly by establishing the factors that led people to the settlement and then modelling the relational dynamics between settlement, state and NGO through a Bourdieusian theoretical framework. The findings indicate that historical and contemporary processes of exclusion and expulsion work to leave some Roma households with limited options within the city. Solutions which focus on resolving practical “development” issues without engaging with embedded issues of racism stand to reproduce the same issues in a new space. To move away from hidden and explicit segregation and actively work towards desegregation is perhaps the most challenging resolution but has seen success in other places and confronts a multiplicity of entangled issues.


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The author, Sam Fraser, was the 2020 recipient of RWI’s Martin Alexandersson Scholarship.

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