beograd gazela
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Das Buch

Beograd Gazela: Travel Guide to a Slum takes us into a blank area in the middle of Europe – in a Roma slum in the center of Belgrade. How does one live without a city infrastructure, without water, without electricity? How do the inhabitants organize themselves and what kind of jobs do they have? What is their situation in regard to health care or the cultivation of their cultural life?

The travel guide directs our attention to a place which is paradigmatic for the recent history of Roma in Southeastern Europe. It provides essential information about the social and economic structures of a slum, about the inhabitants and their daily lives and exposes the complex mechanisms of marginalization and discrimination against Roma.

beograd gazela

In Belgrade there are around 150 settlements which are commonly referred to as slums. Their exact number is hard to ascertain because the criteria for a uniform definition have not been established: When does a collection of huts and barracks attain the size which qualifies it as a settlement? Should this be based on the number of people or the number of houses? And above all, what is a slum?

Anyone who wishes to investigate this further will discover that few answers can be found locally since these settlements are largely ignored in Serbia. They are virtually unknown outside the country, even though the affluent European countries contributed significantly to their formation and rapid growth through the repatriation of deported migrants. There is very little information about the development and conditions in the slum or about their inhabitants, and yet they are more than present in the daily life of Belgrade. One particularly striking example is a settlement which lies under the freeway bridge Gazela. It is situated in the middle of the city with tens of thousands driving by its huts and barracks daily, yet there is almost no one who has visited the settlement, who knows the inhabitants, or has bothered to inform him or herself about their circumstances. The only possible way to get rid of this serious deficit is to go to such a settlement oneself, to meet the inhabitants and to give them the attention that other places and people in other cities expect.

Beograd Gazela: Travel Guide to a Slum takes us into this blank area in the heart of Belgrade in order to redefine its significance in the public consciousness and thus to integrate such a striking, important place which is part of the recent history of Serbia into the topology of the city. It should, however, not only encourage readers to visit Gazela or similar settlements in order to inform themselves about the situation directly, but the travel guide should also draw attention to the multi-layered mechanisms of marginalization and discrimination against Roma and hopes that through its well-grounded description of this sociotope, a general basis for further humanitarian and political projects can be created. Also those readers who do not want to actually make a trip there will still get a well-substantiated insight into a place which can be seen as an exemplar for the living environment of tens of thousands of inhabitants of Belgrade who are excluded from the majority society and is practically paradigmatic for the recent history of the Roma people in Southeast Europe.

Structure and Content

At the beginning the settlement is introduced through a walking tour which is complemented by concrete facts on the themes “Housing”, “Population”, and “Landscape”. Chapters with a stronger social slant follow this basic information in “Health”, “Economy”, and “Transport”. The chapters “Eat and Drink”, and “Shopping”, as well as the chapter “Religion and Festivities”, offer the reader an insight into the daily life of the settlement, while the last part “Culture and Education”, “Society”, and “Politics” focuses more on the marginalization and discrimination of the inhabitants of Gazela, thus illuminating the reasons for the existence of such a settlement. Finally the portrayal of the intended “Relocation” points to the transitory and precarious nature of daily life in Gazela. “Practical Information”, a small “Language Guide” and the “Glossary” are meant to emphasize the actual practical value of the travel guide.

In addition, the individual chapters are accompanied by a discussion which Eduard Freudmann and Can Gülcü led at the end of a presentation of the project on January 14, 2007 in dietheater-Konzerthaus in Vienna. The edited transcriptions of interjections and comments run through the book at the bottom of each page, documenting its origin as well as questions that were still open even after the completion of the typescript, and embed the project in the context out of which it grew – that of contemporary art.