Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

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

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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



© Elias Hemelsoet and Pauwel Van Pelt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.