Challenging the Republic: French Roma policy in an enlarged EU
Krass, Charlotte Rebecca
This thesis explores the relationship between the colour-blind public philosophy of republicanism and the French state’s policies targeting the Roma. It addresses one core research question: how did political actors use neo-republican ideas to communicate and justify policies targeting the Roma? To do this, it examines the discourse of French and European Union (EU) actors involved in the formulation and implementation of polices targeting the Roma from 2010 to 2016. This discourse comprised political speeches, policy reports, memos, media clippings and 50 in-depth interviews with French and EU actors. Building on Christina Boswell and James’ Hampshire’s theory of discursive strategies, this thesis focuses on the strategic deployment of republican ideas, notably the ways in which political actors were able to exploit their polyvalence. This thesis argues that political actors used four key republican ideas to communicate and justify policies targeting the Roma in France. First, a commitment to universalism allowed political actors to deny accusations of ethnic targeting while pursuing policies that disproportionally targeted Roma migrants. Second, political actors deployed the idea of a ‘neutral’ public sphere to justify the eviction and deportation of residents living in so-called Roma camps. Third, political actors used a logic of administrative selection to predetermine which evicted ‘Roma’ migrants were worthy of state support. Fourth, recipients of this support were subject to a state-led process of assimilation akin to a modern ‘civilising mission’, which political actors defended as a necessary step towards integration. This thesis concludes that it was precisely the polyvalence of republican ideas that allowed actors to deploy them to communicate and justify discriminatory policies. In doing so, it builds upon a growing literature on the role of republicanism in contemporary French politics and provides a rich empirical study that captures the influence of a general public philosophy on specific policy decisions. Additionally, it extends recent scholarship on the treatment of the Roma in Europe and contributes to debate about the challenges of free movement in an enlarged EU.