Long-Term “Ethnicized Silences”, Family Secrets and Nation-Building

Keywords: Silences, family secrecy, Roma, Slovakia, ethnonationalism, Central and Eastern Europe, migration


This article demonstrates the dynamic relationship between long-term ethnicized silences, family secrets and nation-building in Central and Eastern Europe. How have modern nation-states been imagined and formed on the basis of these long-term silences? In order to illustrate what we believe could be the contribution to anthropology (principally to nationalism studies) enabled by introducing this analytical category of silences, in this research we will focus on a close analysis of the life story and identity journey of a self-identified “Slovak woman with Hungarian-Roma roots” who settled in the Czech Republic in 2009. Through this ethnographic example, and in an attempt to go beyond particularities, some of the themes covered are: what meanings, uses and processes of silences can we find in Slovakia, and what is their relationship to the construction of minorities and to an ethno-cultural model of nation-building (an imagined community)? In which domains and under which power relationships have long-term silences and hidden family secrets prevailed in everyday life? To what extent have those silence frameworks been negotiated and used as intergenerational strategies of family unity and protection? And finally, within the context of migration and the complex processes of Europeanization and globalization, how have those long-term, in this case “shamed”, ethnicized Roma silences been contested and broken, and what is the meaning of this development (at micro and macro levels)? In other words, for nation-states that have long been imagined on the principle of ethno-cultural homogeneity, I ask what can long-term ethnicized silences tell us about the process of nation-building (from the bottom up) and the quality of our EU democracies? Where do we come from, where are we now and, at least in terms of a warning (due to the rise of xenophobic forms of populism and radical nationalism), where are we going?


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How to Cite
Soler, E. (2021). Long-Term “Ethnicized Silences”, Family Secrets and Nation-Building. Ethnologia Polona, 42. https://doi.org/10.23858/ethp.2021.42.2730