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

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Ioana SENDROIU, University of Toronto, Canada
Ron LEVI, University of Toronto, Canada
Research on access to justice generally focuses on the availability of institutions to address legal needs. This paper instead investigates when individuals avoid law as a mechanism for redress — precisely because they do not believe legal institutions are fair or effective. We draw on a unique survey of 30,000 Roma and non-Roma households across twelve Central and Eastern European countries. We find that Romani individuals living in towns where discriminatory stereotypes are more prevalent are more likely to be cynical and pessimistic about legality. Importantly, this legal cynicism has broad effects for inequality, since this cynicism reduces Romani willingness to engage with state institutions more broadly. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that experiences of discrimination may undermine confidence in legal institutions for stigmatized communities (cf. Lamont et al 2016). By training our lens on how discrimination can shape minority communities’ engagement with legal institutions, we elaborate a cognitive sociology of access to justice.