Romani scholars, activists to speak at Centre for Imaginative Ethnography Symposium

A symposium exploring issues of prejudice, discrimination and violence as experienced by Romani refugees in Canada and worldwide will take place at York University Nov. 9 and 10, bringing internationally recognized Romani scholars and activists to the Keele campus.

The Centre for Imaginative Ethnography (CIE) hosts “The Centre for Imaginative Ethnography Symposium: Imagining Canada’s Futures with Romani Refugees & Migrants,” which includes two keynote addresses, a roundtable panel and a workshop for graduate students.

The symposium was curated by Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, professor in York’s School of the Arts, Media Performance & Design (AMPD).

The keynote addresses will be delivered by Romani scholar Ian Hancock (University of Texas, Austin) and Toronto-based Romani multimedia artist Lynn Hutchinson Lee. The workshop for York’s graduate students will be on the topic of social justice and activism, and it will be led by Hutchinson Lee.

The schedule for the two-day event includes:

Nov. 9: 3 to 5pm, ACE 209
Workshop – The confluence of creation, identity and social engagement: an arts workshop
Lynn Hutchinson Lee
• In a printmaking and assemblage workshop, Hutchinson Lee will work with graduate students to explore identity and their perspectives on social engagement. After an initial group discussion, participants will develop images collaboratively or individually that reflect upon or respond to these issues, followed by the carving of linoleum blocks from the original drawings. The prints, once pulled, will be affixed to a paper garment made by the artist for the workshop, and previously subjected to a process of painting with konnyaku paste and drying, allowing the paper to be distressed, shaped and manipulated. In addition to the block prints, participants will collaborate in writing text or poetry, drawing or otherwise marking the final garment.

Nov. 9: 6 to 7:30pm, York Lanes 280N
Keynote – “Romani reality and the ‘gypsy’ myth”
Ian F. Hancock
• It is still the case that the general public knows very little about the actual Romani people, while having a much more detailed notion of what “gypsies” are. Hancock presents an overview of the Romani studies course that he has taught at the University of Texas for the past 30 years, examining the reasons for the great disparity between the two identities. He will also discuss early and current explanations re: origins, and summaries of the two great Romani tragedies – the five-centuries-long period of slavery and the Porrajmos, the Nazi genocide. He will also briefly address aspects of Romani religion and culture, the emergence of political movements, and the situation of Roma refugees and asylum seekers in the post-Communist period.

Nov. 10: 10 to 11am, York Lanes 280N
Roundtable – Imagining Canada’s futures through ethnography and the arts
• This roundtable will include keynote speakers Hancock and Hutchinson Lee, as well as renowned Romani authors, artists and activists, including Ronald Lee, Jennifer Danch, Ildi Gulyas, Nazik Deniz and Monica Bodirsky. Participants in the roundtable will discuss the role of imagination and the arts in ethnographic and community-based activism. The roundtable chair will offer follow-up questions and facilitate a dialogue between the presenters and with the audience.

Nov. 10: 6 to 7:30pm, York Lanes 280N
Keynote – Poshrat (half/blood): making art in a precarious identity
Lynn Hutchinson Lee
• Drawing from her mixed Romani/non-Romani heritage, multimedia artist Hutchinson Lee deconstructs the skewed identities and cultural influences that mark her social engagement, activism, artistic practice and sense of belonging in shifting and converging communities. Beginning with Five Songs for Daddy, her spoken word poem from chirikli collective’s sound installation at the 2011 Venice Biennale’s Roma Pavilion, she explores a vicarious identity marked by the life of her Romanichal father. With a puppet as “witness” from her ancestral past (made by her father when the family still travelled in England), she examines the practice of “reinventing” oneself, and discusses identity in both cultural practice and broader social context. Finally, she asks what implications these issues have in imagining futures for Romani refugees in Canada.

About the speakers

Ian F. Hancock is an internationally renowned scholar in the fields of Romani Studies, English history, grammar and dialectology, language and identity, African and Afro-Caribbean linguistics, and creolization and language contact. He has taught as a member of the minority faculty at the University of Texas since 1972 and is director of RADOC (the Romani Archives & Documentation Center) at The University of Texas. He has published widely with more than 400 articles, chapters and books authored or edited. In addition to his academic work, he is a human rights activist, having represented the Roma at the United Nations as a member of the UN Economic & Social Council and of UNICEF. He is a North American member of the Vienna-based International Romani Parliament and was a member of the Project on Ethnic Relations’ Advisory Board. He addresses the U.S. Congress and the Council of Europe on human rights issues, and has represented the U.S. State Department at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Warsaw, and spoken in Brussels, Geneva and New York before the EU and the UN. In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed him as the sole Romani member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. He was recipient in Norway of the Rafto Foundation International Prize for Human Rights (1997) and of the Gamaliel Chair in Peace and Justice from the University of Wisconsin (1998). In 2015, he was appointed honorary vice-chancellor to the International Roma University in New Delhi.

Lynn Hutchinson Lee is a multimedia artist/writer, daughter of a Canadian mother and Romanichal (English Romani) father, living and working in Toronto. A co-founder of Red Tree and chirikli collectives, she has exhibited in Canada, Latin America and Europe. Her mixed media installation, Shelter, Provisional (Awaiting Permanent Structure), is part of Red Tree’s Enraged, Inertia Ran Off intervention in a Hamilton, Ont. park. She collaborated with Monica Bodirsky, Hedina Tahirovic Sijercic and Riel Brown in Musaj te Dzav (I Must Leave), an installation of multimedia skirts at Gallery 50, Toronto, as part of the Toronto Roma Community Centre’s Opre Roma Festival. Other exhibitions include metanoia, drawings and paintings at Hamilton’s Workers Arts & Heritage Centre; Ololo/ Our natural bodies: mapping and surveillance, and Elemental/ Meditation on Sugar, Privilege, & Acculturation, both site-specific installations with Amanda Hale at Galeria Casa Guayasamin, Havana, Cuba. Her stories, creative non-fiction and poetry are published in: CLI-FI: Canadian Tales of Climate Change (Exile Editions); Romani Women in Canada: Spectrum of the Blue Water (Inanna Press); Romani Folio (Drunken Boat); and other anthologies. Her spoken word poem Five Songs for Daddy was one of four works in chirikli collective’s sound installation Canada Without Shadows at the Roma Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Italy; bak (basis voor aktuelle kunst) in Utrecht, Netherlands (2011); and Romania’s National Museum of Contemporary Art (2013).

All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information on the symposium, email Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston.

The event is sponsored by the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography (CIE), 150 Canada @ York, Department of Theatre, Graduate Program in Theatre and Performance Studies, Performance Studies (Canada) Speaker Series, Dean of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), Centre for Refugee Studies, Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Department of Anthropology.