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Legality and Exclusion: Discrimination, Legal Cynicism and System Avoidance across the European Roma Experience

Mon, August 14, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 513D

Abstract

A growing body of work finds that legal and institutional cynicism can have important effects for the reproduction of inequality. This work ties together sociologies of law and crime with the sociology of culture, by emphasizing how members of minority communities experience legality and the cognitive landscapes of the neighborhoods in which they reside. We combine this work with recent research on how members of excluded social groups react to stigma and discrimination, including the role that confidence in legal protection plays in their likelihood to engage with other social and state institutions (Lamont et al 2016). We draw on a unique survey of 30,000 households across Eastern Europe, focusing on minority Roma and non-Roma households. We find that contrary to political and media statements, Roma respondents are not more cynical about law than are non-Roma, and that legal cynicism is most strongly predicted by discrimination at the community level and individual past experiences of discrimination. This paper thus suggests that legal cynicism can be understood as a reaction to discrimination. Initial data suggest that past experiences of discrimination, in turn, predict avoiding an array of state institutions; legal cynicism has a less dramatic effect on system avoidance. Future versions of this paper will refine the relationship between legal cynicism and system avoidance in comparing the experiences of Roma and non-Roma across Eastern Europe.

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