Subject Displacements in Czech Republic

A recurring topic, not only in Prague, but in every country we have visited sheds light on subject displacements. This theme was specifically contextualized during our visit to the NGO, Cooks without Homes, and our lecture with Miroslav Rusenko on the marginalized histories of the Roma people. Cooks without Homes strives to provide woman-identifying people who have difficulty finding permanent living situations with resources towards safety, partnership, and empowerment. As Prague has become increasingly gentrified due to tourism and the influx of wealthier people to the city, the percentage of homeless women has remained stagnant within the past decades (women account for around 20% of the homeless population). During our tour of common destinations homeless people would visit, I thought about how these individuals live among us and are physically hyper-visible in society, yet remain incredibly invisible in terms of adequate support and their personhood. Lanka also mentioned how in Hungary it is illegal to be homeless (all in the name of protecting the presentation of the city), but where is the efficient logic in criminalizing the existence of a demographic? On a similar vein, the lecture about Roma histories presented a disturbing truth about the power of nationalist groups in inflicting violence onto the ethnic group. Rusenko outlined the 1,000 year old history of the nomadic Roma people by focusing on how the population was systematically murdered and tortured during WWII. Currently, the Roma continue to face discrimination in the workforce, housing, and in health care as reiterated by the lecture at Slovo 21. As we arrived in Prague, I noticed a positive shift in terms of how multicultural parties are treated in comparison to Poland. However, as it has been mentioned by my professor, Iveta Jusova, Czech people often present as a welcoming and hospitable people even if they internally feel contrary. In the progression of entering increasingly white-dominated countries, I have realized that while people might sell you a certain image of themselves, it does not mean they are not guilty of perpetuating the same racial violence as those in Poland for example. The persistence of nationalist groups and subsequently marginalized groups such as the Roma and homeless population proves that there is at least tolerance for discriminatory behaviors.

Another theme that persisted in two specific lectures (Bliss without Risk and VietUp) was the creation of communities in border territories. The origins of sex business in the Czech Republic reportedly came from the opening of borders to international travel after the communist regime (specifically tourists from Germany). Bliss without Risk predominantly provides health care services such as contraceptive information and HIV testing to members; additionally, during this lecture, Simona Zatloukalova mentioned how some people participating in sex business have relocated to border towns (some which are adjacent to countries in which sex work is illegal). This labor meets the needs of tourists looking to access sexual services, although for now it is difficult for these workers to find appropriate resources to keep themselves safe and healthy. Similar to this labor offered to foreigners, the establishment of Vietnamese communities on the outskirts of the Czech Republic serves another need by producing materials to be consumed by neighboring countries. Originally arriving in the Czech Republic because of ideological ties between the two formerly communist countries, Vietnamese people built border towns to supply food, clothing, and materials for tourists travelling into the Czech Republic. Both of these groups remain largely marginalized by the general society, one for their ethnic identity and the other for their occupation. The movement into the outskirts of the country represent a trend to push out certain Czech people from a society that they ultimately contribute largely to. For example, the Czech Republic is still a destination for sex tourism (bringing the country plenty of money) despite there being no legislation on this legally invisible group. Additionally, walking around Prague one can find an abundance of Vietnamese, Southeast Asian cuisines to serve the consuming desires of the white population yet the existence of Vietnamese people remains a contested tolerance. While these groups are suffering, the hegemonic masses are profiting off the labor endured by these people.

Lastly, I will discuss the topic of disability as it is manipulated to present a discourse on race (Katerina Kolarova) and gender/sexuality (Jamie Rose). During Kolarova’s lecture, she explained the manipulation of two Roma boys’ ethnicity in a particular film as their race was presented as underdeveloped or backwards. The boys’ failure to assimilate into Czech society perpetuated an existing hysteria of Roma people being unequipped to live among other Czech people. I had never heard about racism being paralleled with disability in a constructive format, but Kolarova’s critique shed light on a reality faced by many ethnic minorities. The method to cure their insufficiency is met with the challenge to assimilate this population (i.e. the cure) and those that respond closest to the dominating class are seen as more viable. Although they will never be fully cured because of their racial/ethnic identity, these people such as the famous Roma individuals presented in Horvathova’s talk can at least be seen as undergoing treatment. This lifelong process/treatment can somewhat put to ease violent tendencies of the masses looking to expel certain groups (which is why people can stomach individual tolerance). Moreover, during Jamie’s lecture on queer people in the Czech Republic, she reiterated the power of sexologists to determine the fates of trans legal recognition. She mentioned how the absence of a trans community has led to internal conflicts by many individuals looking for legal confirmation in that the voice they hear comes from transphobic doctors. In the Czech Republic, people are forced into admitting a disability by having to consult with a doctor about their identity and being made to read literature on “gender disorders.” Additionally, trans people are stripped of their bodily and social autonomy as they are obliged to be sterilized, undergo corrective surgery, and terminate legal partnerships to gain legal recognition of their identities. Therefore, the social, legal, and medical position of both the Roma and queer people remain predicated on the decisions of the state and masses on how to treat these people. As patients to a larger social order, these groups/individuals remain vulnerable to violences dictated on those from positions of power.