Questioning the Policy Framing of Roma in Ghent, Belgium: Some Implications of Taking an Insider Perspective Seriously

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Questioning the Policy Framing of Roma in Ghent, Belgium: Some Implications of Taking an Insider Perspective Seriously


  • Elias Hemelsoet Social Welfare Studies Department, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Pauwel Van Pelt Social Welfare Studies Department, Ghent University, Belgium


Abstract  The recent flow of Roma immigrants to Western Europe has caused a lot of societal and political discussion. Initiatives and policy measures are introduced at the European and national or local level in order to deal with this situation. This article explores to what extent experiences and self-perceptions of Roma immigrants in Western Europe correspond with the constructed discourse in terms of “Roma inclusion”. In policy practices, there seems to be a tension between a willingness to strengthen the particular identity of Roma on the one hand (“targeting”), and a desire to fit those people into mainstream society on the other hand (“mainstreaming”). Based on a case study in the city of Ghent (Belgium) with a small sample of in-depth interviews, the authors explore what an insider perspective may add to the construction of policy. Conclusions relate to the experienced gap with mainstream society, the identification with and definition of the “Roma” concept as well as intergenerational differences. Finally, the argument is taken a step further, and it is wondered how an insider perspective may also question policy. By relating policy conceptualisations of Roma to (self) identification processes, suggestions are made to redefine the meaning of inclusion.


Keywords  Ghent; inclusion; insider perspective; mainstreaming; Roma; self-identification; social policy; targeting


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/si.v3i5.236


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