Alternative spaces of engagement: Constructing meaning through traditional and social media among Roma in the Czech Republic

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Hatef, Azeta
Graduate Program:
Mass Communications
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 22, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Matthew Paul Mcallister, Dissertation Advisor
  • Matthew Paul Mcallister, Committee Chair
  • Michelle Lyn Rodino, Committee Member
  • Matthew Frank Jordan, Committee Member
  • Yael Warshel, Outside Member
  • Roma
  • Czech Republic
  • identity
  • belonging
  • social media
  • activism
  • television
  • ethnography
  • Identity
  • Belonging
  • Social media
  • Activism
  • Television
  • Ethnography
This dissertation examines the use of televisual media forms and social media outlets by Roma activists in the Czech Republic as these activists search for ways to ameliorate discrimination, exclusion and the challenges of identity and community building among the Roma within Czech society. Roma marginalization manifests in a myriad of ways including explicitly through practices such as discriminatory housing and educational segregation. There are also the implicit methods of exclusion including the silencing of voices and experiences. Media are one of the sites that have excluded Roma and continue to present Roma in limited and stereotypical ways with harmful implications. This dissertation explores the specific efforts and outcomes of those engaged in challenging and changing this situation, which is critical for ascertaining a broader understanding of the dynamics and formulating new strategies for change. In particular, this study sets out to understand the ways in which activists attempt to engage communities using media—televisual, online and social media—as sites for identity negotiation and community development, that may in turn contribute to a sense of belonging to help combat unjust systems. My findings are based on ethnographic analysis, including 25 in-depth interviews with people working with and within Romani communities, observations of public demonstrations, as well as analysis of online sites of engagement. I conducted this research over a two-year period, with a majority of my fieldwork taking place from September 2017 to July 2018 in the Czech Republic. Findings highlight the challenges and potential benefits of activists’ use of televisual and social media – including online television programs, Facebook accounts, and archival websites – to address the social and cultural inequalities of Czech-based Roma.