Social Structure in a Roma Settlement: Comparison over Time

Michal Kozubik, Daniela Filakovska Bobakova, Rastislav Rosinsky, Martina Mojtova, Miroslav Tvrdon, Jitse P. van Dijk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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The objective of the present study was to compare the social structure and internal establishment of a Roma community in two historical periods: in the 18th century and the present. We analysed Samuel Augustini ab Hortis's work, "Von dem Heutigen Zustande, Sonderbaren Sitten und Lebensart, Wie Auch von Denen ubrigen Eigenschaften und Umstanden der Zigeuner in Ungarn" (On the Contemporary Situation, Distinctive Manners and Way of Life, as Well as the Other Characteristics and Circumstances of Gypsies in Greater Hungary), written in 1775-1776. Using content analysis, we subsequently compared his findings with our recent data from analogous qualitative research in a geographically-defined area of north-eastern Slovakia, the same region in which Augustini lived. Data collection was intensely conducted in 2012-2013 and once more in 2017-2019. The qualitative methods included direct observation, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Four key informants and more than 70 participants collaborated in the study. The greatest difference we observed compared to the 18th century was the absence of a leader of the community, a "vajda", whose status was taken over by a new social class of "entrepreneurs". The most vulnerable group of the segregated and separated Roma communities are the "degesa", the lowest social class. They face a phenomenon consisting of so-called triple marginalization: they live in one of the most underdeveloped regions of the country, they inhabit segregated settlements and they are excluded by their own ethnic group. The socioeconomic status of the richest classes has changed faces, while the socioeconomic status of the lowest has not. We found a misconception among helping professionals (e.g., social workers) regarding the homogeneity of the Roma community. This calls for more attention to the erroneous use of the ethnic-based approach in the helping professions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7311
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 7-Oct-2020


  • Roma
  • social structure
  • comparison
  • 18th century
  • 21st century
  • Slovakia

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