Angéla Kóczé Receives 2023 Beth Rickey Award from the Bard Center for the Study of Hate
Dr. Kóczé has not only contributed to wider understandings of anti-Roma hate (and particularly hatred directed toward Roma women), but has also worked diligently inside and outside academia to bring attention to the dehumanization of and discrimination against Roma, and to help those afflicted by it. Roma (also known as “Gypsies”) are a people who have suffered persecution, and worse, throughout history. They were a victim of genocide by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. Discrimination against them in Europe and elsewhere continues to this day, but is frequently ignored or condoned.
Dr. Kóczé, who is Roma, knows of the hatred she studies first-hand, having grown up in a poor family in a small town near the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. Kóczé, the only member of her family to have finished high school, set out to be a teacher, and became one. She continued her studies, receiving an M.A. in Human Rights and an M.A. in Sociology, Ethnic and Minority Studies, and a Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Anthropology.
She was a founding member of Romaversitias, which prepares Hungarian Roma students for university attendance. When the program started, only a handful of Roma students graduated university annually. Now, Dr. Kóczé, as chair of the CEU Romani Studies Program, has, “assisted hundreds of Roma students get the confidence and skills needed to join international academia and professional and non-profit sectors,” one of her colleagues said.
In a profile of Dr. Kóczé ten years ago, the Washington Post noted her substantial contributions, including educating about anti-Roma stereotypes in the media and beyond, highlighting the problems of forced sterilization of Roma women, and calling attention to the segregation of Roma students in the educational system. In books, articles, and interviews, she raises deep questions about important issues, such as the difference between when Roma are considered an ethnicity or in racial terms, how “romanticized” views of Roma affect how they are treated in society, and the interplay between the strong community sense many Roma exhibit and their exclusion from society, both as cause and effect. She noted recently that, “in Hungarian politics, when the bad guys become demonized, rumors appear that they are Roma . . . it’s the kind of talk you hear in the hair salon.”
The annual Beth Rickey Award is given in memory of Elizabeth “Beth” Rickey, who died on September 12 in 2009. Rickey was a Republican State Committeewoman in Louisiana. Politically conservative, Rickey was appalled when neo-Nazi and former Klansman David Duke won elected office and devastated that many of her fellow Republicans in state government welcomed Duke into their midst. She made it her mission to expose Duke, following him to meetings with other white supremacists, showing that he continued to sell Mein Kampf and Holocaust-denying material from his legislative office.
“Dr. Kóczé’s dedication to combating hate, both in forcing us to see and understand it through her academic work, and her dogged determination to help those directly afflicted by it, are the values and achievements we want to recognize and highlight,” said Kenneth S. Stern ’75, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate and a friend of Rickey’s. “Like Beth, Dr. Kóczé made a significant mark against hate, and we are thrilled to present this year’s award to her.”
Post Date: 09-12-2023