The Roma People’s Project at Columbia University: Launch and Discussion

Tuesday, November 14, 2017  3:30pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room

From Gypsy Stereotypes to Roma Reality and Aspirations

Please RSVP 

Space is limited so first come, first seated. 

Did you know...

  • The so-called  "free-spirited Gypsies" are, in fact, the Roma - one of the most stigmatized and least understood ethnic groups in the world
  • Roma culture has many more facets than Gypsy stereotypes considering its lack of homeland, variety of religions, music and the diversity of the Roma people?
  • Roma people left India about 1000 years ago and have since been the “unwelcome guests” of someone else’s country? 
  • The Roma were also targeted during the Holocaust of WWII and over 1 million were killed?
  • More than 1 million Roma live in the US - many in the New York area- and more arrive every year?
  • There are about 12 million Roma in Europe, which makes them the largest ethnic minority on the continent? 
  • In many regions only 1% of Roma access higher education and many lack basic human rights and freedoms? 


On November 14, research scholar Cristiana Grigore will officially launch the Roma People’s Project (RPP) at Columbia University in collaboration with the Heyman Center for the Humanities. With support from the Center for Justice at Columbia, this initiative will spotlight the Roma people and expand Roma studies by examining topics such as identity and stigma, mobility and displacement, and archival research and digital scholarship. 

The RPP aims to build a digital platform that identifies, examines, and curates material about how Roma define themselves and how others have represented them. Roma, commonly but erroneously called Gypsies, are a people who have been without a country and minimal representation within mainstream society for 1,000 years. It also seeks to create a space for Roma and other marginalized groups—ethnic and otherwise—to discuss their shared challenges and explore how their identities enrich themselves and their societies.

We are accepting questions prior to the event which may be selected for the panelists to answer. If interested, you may submit your question(s) to [email protected]

For more info please contact [email protected].  

To celebrate its launch, the RPP will convene a symposium featuring two panels of scholars, including: 

•       Carol Gluck, PhD, Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures, Chair of Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought

•       Frances Negrón-Muntaner, PhD, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, filmmaker and co-founder of Columbia University's Latino Arts and Activist archive

•       Ronald Lee, LL.D, Author, Lecturer and Founding Member of the Roma Community Centre of Toronto

•       Bruce Robbins, PhD, Professor in the Humanities, Author of Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress

•       Manan Ahmed, PhD, Assistant Professor of History, Columbia University

•       Dana Neacscu, PhD, Lecturer and Librarian at Columbia’s Law School, Author of Roma and Forced Migration. An Annotated Bibliography

•       Lorcan Otway, JD, legal expert and Director and Curator of the Museum of the American Gangster

•       Pamela M. Graham, PhD, Director of the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research Columbia University Libraries

Panel I

Other Globalisms: The Roma and Other Displaced Peoples 

This panel will explore why understanding the Roma’s unique history as a people without a homeland is relevant today. The Roma’s enduring identity—dispersed and mobile, but also settled worldwide—can provide insights at a time when there are more refugees than there have been at any point since the end of World War II. 

Knowing the Roma

Knowing the Roma will include live presentations and a video featuring Roma and friends of Roma edited by filmmaker Mircea Goia. They will share their stories and initiatives, their wishes for the Roma People’s Project at Columbia University and their hopes for the Roma people:

By Video: Ioanida Costache: Violinist, videographer and Romani activist, Mihaela Drăgan: Actress and playwright, Sandi Horvat: Journalist, Bozhidar Draganov: Senior Project Manager for Solar PV. 

Live Presentations: Michael Ciuraru: Educator, Patrick Wiley: American writer, filmmaker and advocate - invited as a friend of Roma. 

Panel II

A Virtual Homeland for the Roma: Creating a Digital Community to Connect a Scattered People

This panel will explore the potential of online platforms, such as digital archives and social media, to preserve and generate knowledge and form communication hubs. Such spaces, are especially crucial for the Roma, without a country and with minimal representation for 1,000 years. Similarly, such spaces can benefit other displaced peoples who seek to come to terms with their identities and find a cultural space where they can have a community and share stories. 

Event will be accompanied by Roma music: The event will include two musicians: Bela Horvath, a violinist of Roma origins, who plays periodically at Carnegie Hall and Alex Webb, who plays Gypsy jazz inspired by Django Reinhardt, Roma musician known internationally as the "father of jazz” guitar. 

Event Agenda:

3:30 -3:45pm: Welcoming guests and registration

3:45 - 4:00pm: Opening Remarks with Music: 

  • Roma Anthem played by musicians Bela Horvath and Alex Web 
  • Dr. Ian Hancock, Roma scholar and pioneering activist, University of Texas.
  • Geraldine Downey, Professor of Psychology and Director of Center for Justice at Columbia University 
  • Professor Elsa Stamatopoulou, Director, Indigenous Peoples' Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights
  • Research Scholar Cristiana Grigore, Presentation on founding the Roma People's Project at Columbia University 

4:00 -5:00pmPanel I Other Globalisms: The Roma and Other Displaced Peoples

5:00 -5:10pmCoffee Break

5:10 -5:30pm: Knowing the Roma: Video and Live Presentations by Roma and Friends of Roma 

5:30 -6:30pm: Panel II A Virtual Homeland for the Roma: Creating a Digital Community to Connect a Scattered People 

6.30 - 7:30: Reception with Roma music 


  • Founder of the Roma Peoples Project

    Cristiana Grigore


    Roma Peoples Project

  • Speaker

    Carol Gluck

    George Sansom Professor of History and Professor of East Asian Language and Cultures

    Columbia University

  • Speaker

    Frances Negrón-Muntaner

    Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature

    Columbia University

  • Speaker

    Ronald Lee

    Romani Canadian Author, linguist, and activist

  • Speaker

    Bruce Robbins

    Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities

    Columbia University

  • Speaker

    Manan Ahmed

    Assistant Professor of History

    Columbia University

  • Speaker

    Dana Neacşu

    Librarian and Lecturer

    Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Columbia Law School

  • Speaker

    Lorcan Otway

    Director and curator

    Museum of the American Gangster

  • Speaker

    Pamela M. Graham

    Director of the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research

    Columbia University Libraries

  • Guest Musician

    Bela Horvath


  • Guest Musician

    Alex Webb

    Jazz Guitarist

  • Guest

    Ioanida Costache

    Violinist, videographer and Romani activist

  • Guest

    Mihaela Drăgan

    Actress and playwright

  • Guest

    Sandi Horvat


  • Guest

    Bozhidar Draganov

    Senior Project Manager for Solar PV

  • Guest

    Michael Ciuraru


  • Guest

    Patrick Wiley

    Writer and filmmaker

  • Guest

    Stefania Magidson

    Founder and president

    Blue Heron Foundation


By Semester