The Limits of Operational Representations

Ways of Seeing Roma beyond the Recognition-redistribution Paradigm


  • Peter Vermeersch
  • Huub Van Baar Institute of Political Science, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Rathenaustrasse 8, 35394 Giessen, Germany; Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS), University of Amsterdam

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Since 2011, the EU has called upon its member states to step up their efforts to improve the socioeconomic conditions facing many Roma. It has also sought to secure the ethnic representation of the Roma in these efforts. By doing so, the EU has tried to strike a balance between redistribution and recognition: it has recognized the ethnic specificity of this group, but it has also framed the issue as one that requires a socioeconomic solution. Using insights from frame analysis, visual theory and governmentality studies, we argue that the EU’s balancing act between recognition and redistribution has its limits. Current redistribution policies may be open to forms of group representation, but the deeper operational representations which underpin that openness still conceptualize the Roma in restricted ways. These operational representations determine how the Roma become publicly ‘visible’ and ‘governable’. In this article, we speculate about a possible trajectory out of this impasse and argue in favor of a repertoire of representation that allows for more fluid and contestable images of the Roma.




How to Cite

Vermeersch, P. and Van Baar, H. 2017. The Limits of Operational Representations: Ways of Seeing Roma beyond the Recognition-redistribution Paradigm. Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics. 3, 4 (Dec. 2017). DOI:



Europeanization and Changes in Minority Inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe